Regular Twilight School contributor Brian Doyle looks at his father and the wonderful world of etymology.

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος

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Image credit: PDPics

A fell swoop, says my dad; what does that actually mean?
What does a falling swoop look like, or an upright swoop,
For that matter? And in what context exactly are we using
The world swoop? Does swell foop accomplish the matter
As well? Although there you would have to examine foop.
This is how my dad talks, his curiosity and humor holding
Hands with a sort of quiet open intelligence I have always
Admired and wanted to emulate. Not for Pop the pompous
Speech about this and that. He’s more of a calm inquisitor,
A grinning needle against fatuous and fatuitous. Now that
Is an example right there; there’s a difference between the
Words, and Pop would happily wander around in the space,
And poke into etymology, and invent new words like them,
All this with a smile, without a hint of arrogant look-at-me.
He’s almost a hundred years old and his curiosity is just as
Fresh and alert and sharp-eared and playful as it was when
He was four and six years old in the little wooden house on
The hill in Pittsburgh. He’s come a long way from that hill;
Through wars that began with words, and the marriage that
Began with a question, and kids he tried to shape with calm
Gentle words as lodestars and compass points and trodden
Trails for when you didn’t know your way. He was also an
Avid fan of Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, which is In the beginning
Was the Word, what a vibrant line, isn’t it, what a stunning
And evocative and remarkable idea! he says; just like he is.

Brian Doyle

Poet and writer Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine, has contributed to Platform and Eureka Street, and is the author of many fiction and non-fiction works, including Thirsty for the Joy.