Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Words, words, words

We are now reading The Phantom Tollbooth, a cute story about a little boy who gets to drive his toy car through a tollbooth into strange lands. The land he's in currently is Dictionopolis, where there is an ancient battle between the people who prefer words and the people who believe numbers are the most important things in life.

Tonight Tanner asked me, "Mom, which do you think are better, words or numbers?" And I replied, "Well, since I'm a poet, I would have to say words are better. And they're more about being with people."

And he said, "Words ARE better. You know why?" And I know he has figured something else out, in his adorable analytical way. He whispers in my ear, "Because numbers are words. TWO is a word, THREE is a word, FOUR is a word...", and we both giggle.

I consider how I manipulate numbers in my head: abstractions, characters that represent quantities, but represented in my verbal representations as a word that has a spelling. A number has three lives: one in the abstract, one of concrete, and one of words. I know there have been books written on this subject, and I happen to own one (1) of them, which I have not yet read ("Zero", by Charles Seife)

And I really can't fault him for his logic. He will be six (6) at the end of next month, and I wonder how long I can keep up with him.

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