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Tactile Tuesday: Context in Relation to Words We Can Touch






When you read these words separately, what comes to mind? What comes to mind when you read them together?

Some words stand on their own, as these can. They are special, and they are to be used sparingly. Words like these can lead us somewhere, usually to an experience we’ve had, be it negative, positive, boring, etc. We may not think in single words like these, but when we read them we feel. We bring memories into stories, articles, and statements that weren’t directly stated. And who said we could do that anyway?

Well, nobody did. That is the power of words. They make us remember.

More often than tangible words that can stand on their own, though, are those we find formed in groupings of words (or, sentences). In written works, without the context brought by other sentences, paragraphs, and backstories, a word pregnant with tangibility will go unnoticed and won’t evoke the kind of emotion the writer is seeking to draw out (that is, if the writer is attempting to evoke an emotion at all). This means context is critical.

Any writer will tell you that context drives the way words are read, perceived, and experienced as a whole. Without context, certain words aren’t worth anything. They fall flat. They are empty.

Consider the way the otherwise simple words “slippery,” “sponge,” and “sweat” are used in the following paragraph and note the senses that are woken by their usage:

The heavy sun looms in the west when he wakes. His sleeping mat is slippery beneath his body and his brow is a sponge. His eyes are flooded with sweat. Waking to warmth sets him in a daze, and for several minutes he does not move, soaking under the soft blanket of humidity caught beneath the tarp above.

How have you experienced the way a word, or a word within a context of others, has evoked emotion from you? What did it, or they, do to you? Were they from novels, articles, blogs, a twitter feed? Please share!

In the future I hope to share more of my personal experiences with words, but I felt setting a foundation for those posts was necessary. Hope you enjoyed!


  1. Sandon Sandon June 20, 2013

    Shadow is a powerful word for me. It is not tangible in the sense that you can’t actually touch and feel a shadow. It can be seen and felt (suppose you are standing in the shade of a tree, which is essentially its shadow). It cannot be heard, yet one cannot deny its very presence. “Shadows of the past” or “river of shadows” or “Peter Pan was looking for his shadow.” Long, looming shadows of faceless men with fedoras. The word “shadow,” whenever I come upon it, fills me with a sense of wonder, of dread, of ethereal calm, of curiosity. Shadow is a word that definitely evokes emotion from me.

    Thanks for making me think!

    • Aaron Aaron Post author | June 20, 2013

      Yeah, Sandon. You’re totally right. I love how you said, “It cannot be heard, yet one cannot deny its very presence.” This reminds me of a lot of things, like wind in how you can’t see it but can’t deny the objects that it moves.

      Glad you made it over today!

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