Word Seven: Sonorous


This was my word of the week.

For some reason, I always associate the word sonorous with whales. I have absolutely no idea why; I think it’s perhaps the not-quite, but almost, onomatopoeic aspect to it. I see the word floating in a deep, almost unbearably reasonable bubble from an old, wise Humpback whale’s mouth, as it advises a pod of Humpback juniors on the whole ‘beaching yourself, just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t make you cool, it makes you dead’ scenario.

For those who have been glazed into submission with my use of the word onomatopoeic, here is the definition of sonorous for some light relief.

Sonorous: (adj.) 1. rich and full in sound, as language or verse; and
2. giving out or capable of giving out a sound, especially a deep, resonant sound, as a thing or place: a sonorous cavern.

Whales are resonant, rich and full in their language. It is a sonorous and strange music, a wondrous – I won’t call it chatter, because that is not dignified enough – dialogue, perhaps, of warnings, of tides and tidings, of family and friends. It is large in its meanings, the edges of which we are only just beginning to grasp. If ever a word was made to describe a mammalian voice, then sonorous is to whale as chittering is to chimp.

Dolphins, on the other hand; well, they may have sonar attached, but sonorous? Never. Yes, they are capable of giving out a sound, so strictly speaking, it is an adjective one must apply to them – but a deep, resonant sound? Never. Theirs is a conversation, one feels, of sunshine and silliness, of Sunday afternoons spent lazing in the shallows as someone eventually gets out of the metaphorical armchair to prepare supper. The alarm, the responses to panic are there, but they are high-pitched and angry, the shrillness of them adding to the heartbreak at a death, or the fierceness of attack.

I love the thought of coming back as a dolphin. I feel, considering my level of sinning over the years, I will be lucky to come back as a can of tuna, but if given a preference, it will be as a dolphin or a cat. I don’t have the acceptable gravitas (seen immediately by the fact that whenever I use this word, I say gravit-arse deliberately) to be a whale. My voice is definitely not of an acceptable sonorous nature as a human, being a very high soprano, and far too sarcastic in nature. Nope, it’s Flipper or Felix for me, preferably, if the latter, in a household like my own, where Cats Come First, and they know it.

There are so many connotations to the word sonorous, in turning it to chronic illness, and Parkinson’s. One of these comes very much under its first definition, in the mention of language or verse. So much is written about Parky which is shallow, thin of understanding and meaning, without resonance and richness. Untruths and old wives’ tales, leading to people painting it in a certain light, never delving down further to the depths it contains, and thus seeing its reality.

This shallowness means there are an enormous number of people who are unaware Parkinson’s affects those of my age, and that there is Juvenile, let alone Young Onset Parkinson’s. That it is a disease of the mind, body and spirit. That many of its symptoms are not the obvious ones, the ones everyone knows about, such as ‘the shakes’, but unseen ones; depression, anxiety, and extreme pain. Cramping and distortion of extremities. An inability to maintain facial expression. Sometimes, being incapable of making one’s body move forward, even whilst the brain knows it should be. Trying to swallow, and panicking because the muscles aren’t doing what they’re supposed to.

Dementia. Fear. Insomnia.

These are all things which resonate constantly for people with the disease, especially if you are young and (relatively) healthy. The thought that one day – perhaps in the not too distant future – that reasonably intelligent, fertile, holds its own in an argument brain of yours, will decide to stop producing enough dopamine to allow you to think with clarity. To make your mental processes a jumble, and your days a madness.

Every time I forget a word, or a fact I know like my own name – and it is starting to happen with more regularity – I feel myself falling into a cavern of deeper and deeper depth, and a sonorous, resounding boom of fear blooms in my chest as I fall.

This is why I attempt to make my language, my writing, as rich and full as I can, whilst I can. It is my attempt at becoming an adjective, at leaving behind a whale of a tale, and keeping some meaning and magic in my intellectual life.

“That Kate”, I would be overjoyed for people to say, when the grey matter has turned to its inevitable mush of Weetbix and blank spaces, and I can no longer look at a word of the day and know it is a word; “she had a speaking voice like a whistling kettle, and a body which was, let’s face it, her own worst enemy – but her writing – well, it was beginning to have a somewhat sonorous depth to it, don’t you agree?”

I’ll flip my fins together, and nod, and possibly do a backflip or two. Then I’ll swim away, and relish the freedom of the sea.

With a voice that’s still like a whistling teakettle, true; but with a body capable of parting the roughest waters like an arrow, and which can take on the sharks and slingshots of life –

– and win.