Sounding out the meaning

Yesterday evening I came across my copy of Eunoia by Christian Bök. It’s a brilliant book emphasizing the sound of words and the playfulness of language.

The word eunoia means beautiful thinking and is the shortest word in the English language that contains all five vowels.

The book is a lipogram, which is a form used by many Oulipo poets. Each vowel has its own chapter—no other vowels will appear in it. As a result the vowels emerge from their chapters with their own personality (i is more light-hearted, for example). It took Bök seven years to write the 2002 Griffin Poetry Prize winner.

Writers often use words to convey meaning to readers. But words are not always a means to an end. The next time you find yourself struggling to find meaning in piece of writing, stop. Let the words be the meaning.


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