The Jumbly Man

Typos, Spellos and Wordos, I love them all.

Years ago in telling one of my favourite stories, The King Who Wouldn’t Wash, I mispronounced the dire punishment he constantly promised. Whenever the king demanded his servant complete an impossible task, he threatened to sever his head. I pronounced this as severe, instead of sever. A storytelling colleague came up to me after the tale (which was enjoyed) and pointed out my error. I laughed. After all severing an head is quite severe, so it all works, doesn’t it?

This has been part of my long love affair with weird and wonderful words and the creation of them. Not so long ago, a member of my team at work, wrote the word resolution on the board. She spelled it Resoulution, with the first o scrawled in an heart shape. I have thought often of that word. Re – soul – ution. Isn’t that what we all strive for? The resolution of our spirits? A realigning with the divine? Works for me.

I enjoy my own typos and spellos enormously and have been known to chuckle long and loudly at my own errors. Often those errors can reshape a word (like resoulution) or sentence, shift perception or thought. There are times when words in current usage simply don’t fit what it is you are wanting to express. Then it is time to create new words. Yes, we create new words, or new senses or understanding of words in current use. One that comes to mind is reconciliation. This is a noun and I feel a strong yearning for it’s use as an adjective. What I needed was the word reconciliative. It takes practice to pronounce and practice to use and I am dedicated to the birth of this new word. I have used it often in meetings, presentations, emails and encouraged others to use it. You too, use the word five times in the next 24 hours and you will wonder how you did without it. Unless of course you are not interested in reconciliative events. See! Excellent use.

Some of my other favourites are random capitalisation and occasional misplaced apostrophes. So many grammatical errors to enjoy. I make many of my own, especially with the use of tense. So, what story to tell?

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, long long ago, there was a man who was unable to speak clearly. Every word came out backwards and every sentence jumbled but he was so earnest and of such good cheer that his neighbours and friends always spent time with him.

They may have come away uncertain of the conversation and what exactly they had agreed to do but they always came away with a smile. Somehow, the Jumbly Man, as the children called him, always managed to collect on the conversation. He would turn up at dawn at a neighbour’s house and it would be understood that they had agreed to go fishing. Or the Jumbly Man would turn up with ball and picnic basket and the children knew there was fun to be had.

One day the Jumbly Man wasn’t anywhere to be found. No-one had noticed at first until the children went home for dinner and asked their parents where he was. The adults brushed it off, assuring the children he would be around the next day. He wasn’t.

Most concerned, the children looked everywhere. They looked in the park and the playground, at the shop and the school house, then down to the river in case he was fishing. When they couldn’t find him anywhere they ran to the meeting house to tell the Elders.

The Elders listened carefully as you hope Elders would when faced with a group of concerned, solemn-eyed children. Asking the children to select two leaders, the Elders did the same, and the four walked together to the Jumbly Man’s house.

Parents and others noticed their focus and followed. Down they went through their village, to the pathway at the end that led to the Jumbly Man’s cottage. By now everyone was trying not to think the worst, hearts were beating at what they might find. Parents were disappointed in themselves for not listening to the children earlier. What had happened to their Jumbly Man?

The Elders and children stood at the door of the Jumbly Man’s house and knocked, then waited, until they heard a soft sound within. Pushing open the door, they looked inside. Tucked up in his bed with a red nose of a nasty cold, was their Jumbly Man, smiling at them.

The children flew across the room and wrapped their arms around him. The Elders smiled, relieved and set to tidying the room, setting a fire and warming water for a drink. The Jumbly Man chatted in his jumbly language and the children all crowded in and laughed along with him, so glad that he was safe.

Don’t you wish we all cared so for the Jumbly ones in our lives? A few jumbled words can add such richness.

and that is the end of the story.

(c) CL Harper 5 August 2013

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