The Right Words

My friend Michael and I had not a dinner together in a while. We had a regular dinner appointment on the second Tuesday of the month for years. But, then, life got in the way — mostly Michael’s. It changed rather dramatically a few months back. Not the least of which was being in a new relationship after years of not having been in one. So, I was willing to let our dinners take back seat. We’ve known each other for almost 20 years. He’d do the same for me.

So, it was great that we were finally able to get together recently over at a bistro near me. Dinner was great! Made especially good by the conversation. There was lot’s of catching up to do. We talked about life and love and creating the element of surprise in the seemingly mundane. We reminisced about the past and talked with excitement about future plans. Such things are what make a meal memorable.

But the memory of the evening that will stick out in my mind — the one that will last — came with desert. The waiter came over to ask if we wanted desert and describe our options. Among these was a type of pie neither Michael nor I had heard of before — Buttermilk Pie.

“What is that? I’ve never heard of it before.”, I asked. “What does it taste like?”

“It’s really hard to describe.”, explained the waiter. “But, I had a slice the other day and it is my new favorite pie. And, I’m not a big pie guy. If you order a slice. maybe you can weigh in.”

And, with that a gauntlet was thrown down — a challenge neither Michael nor I could refuse. The slices of pie were brought out and happily consumed. It was delicious. Yet, it was also immediately apparent why the waiter had such a hard time describing the taste. It was almost purposely elusive. The flavor was delicate. Not quite vanilla. Not sharp enough to even compare to a cheesecake. Nor was it creamy enough or sour enough or sweet enough to make an even comparison to anything else. It was almost cloud-like — etherial. Michael and I were both still at a loss when the waiter appeared again to take away our now empty plates.

“So, how’d you like it?”

“It was really good.”, I replied. Still unsure as to the answer to the obvious next question from the waiter.

“How would you describe it?”, he asked.

“It whispers tapioca.” Michael said with a sly smile after a considered pause. With those three words he completely nailed it. He managed to capture the entire experience of eating that slice of pie. He nailed the flavor, suggested the texture… All of it. The brilliance and exquisiteness of those three words left us speechless. Only nodding our heads in agreement and repeating them. It gave us all pause.

It is moments like this that I am reminded why I am a writer. I’m in love with and in awe of the power of language. The way a single word or just the right ones strung together can capture the whole of something otherwise only imagined. An entire experience can be encapsulated, examined, and then set free for others to bear witness to, all in an instant, with just three simple words.

This is why, as a writer, I keep a record of such reminders of this power. It’s a text file titled “Bits of Words and Wisdom”. Upon leaving the restaurant, adding “It whispers tapioca” to my file was my first priority. When I hear a cool word or interesting phrase that makes me stop and take notice — especially something that captures the imagination — I add it to this list. Sometimes, it is something from a conversation like the above. Increasingly, it is something I read — be it a book, a Tweet, or on a blog post. Sometimes it is from a video or something recorded. No matter the source it is added to this file soon after encountering it. Expedience is key, lest I forget it and lose it forever. Because these are the times to remember that words matter. Words mean things far beyond what you may find in a dictionary. Words are triggers and keys that blow open barriers and unlock doors to entire unknown universes.

The right ones are, at least.


I’m a writer. Writing is how I make this world better, friendlier, stronger place. If these words improved your day, please let me know by contributing here.

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