It’s all in the preposition.

Several people have said to me over the past few weeks (independently of each other, I might add), that I am good with words. Good with words. Not good at words, like you’d be good at dancing, or playing cricket, or painting walls. But good with words, like you’d be good with children, or with animals. It’s all in the preposition. 

To be good with something implies that it’s something with which you interact. It implies mutuality. To be good at something implies that you do it. It implies subject and object. 

It struck me as funny that words are seen as being tiny little entities on their own. There’s an element of fear in people’s approach of words, as though they’re fleeting, or slippery, or have minds of their own. I witness people approach them the way you would a flock of birds, or a small dog – creatures that you are fairly certain are benign and harmless, but which have the potential to be dangerous. 

It makes sense, really, when you think about it. We talk about the pen being mightier than the sword; we talk about words wounding, or building up. We use words to create our world, to share knowledge and stories. To share ourselves. And just look at what’s revealed about our attitudes in just one tiny preposition, not even the focus of the sentence. I’m good with words: words are scary. People, whether they’re willing to admit it overtly, are just a little bit frightened of words. And they think I can placate them. 

Kind of cool, really. 

What’s sometimes not cool is that being good with words automatically seems to qualify me for the role of being proofreader-in-chief. Maybe I should do that for a living. 


As an interesting aside: WordPress offers a list of other blogs to which I might like to make reference, based on the content of this draft. There were six suggested blog posts, all of them relating directly to prepositions. I love that the Internet is a haven for a word-nerd.