the democracy of words


To no one’s surprise, I’m sure, I like words, be they written, spoken, old, new, big, little, simple or multisyllabic.

Theatre of Epidaurus, home of the spoken word

There are words I love because they roll off the tongue (malevolent) – words I like because they’re fun to say (rutabaga) – words I dislike because they sound icky (unguent) – words I can’t spell without a dictionary (chauffeur) – words I mix up on a constant basis (lie/lay) – words I can’t pronounce because I learned them from reading (caryatid) – words that make me smile (flibbertigibbet) – words that drive me nuts (feminazi) – words that should be used more often (whimsical) – words that should be struck from our vocabulary (impactful) – words that suit me (passionate) – words that don’t (lackadaisical).

The Iliad and The Odyssey: 2nd century CE embodiment of Homer’s words

I’ve been thinking about words quite a lot during my recent travels in Greece, one word in particular: democracy – from the Greek dēmokratia – which is fitting, since we tend to consider Greece the birthplace of democracy, “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections” [thanks, Merriam Webster].

Stoa of Attalos, where people met to converse with words

Democracy is on display in all sorts of ways these days, in my homeland and in my adopted land. Americans and Romanians are exercising the power vested in them as citizens of democracies to protest against incursions on democratic rights.  Heady times, indeed, to see the enactment of freedoms we too often take for granted as citizens of a democracy – freedom of speech, of congregation, of autonomy, of dissent, of individuality, of liberty. And here I am, in the country that established the concepts of those democratic ideals.

atop the Acropolis, amongst ancient words

The democracy of being a traveler was evident during my time in Greece, moving from the political to the societal.  There’s a democratic spirit inherent to traveling; you become one of many people wandering the streets, stepping into the shops, stopping for a bite to eat, admiring the view, ducking out of the rain, enjoying the sunshine.  I enjoy blending in when I travel – as much as it’s possible to do so.  I certainly didn’t fool anyone in Greece but, occasionally, I’ve had brief moments of assimilation in other (paler) countries.  It’s comforting to be one of the regular people when I travel, to be seen as part of the larger community, even if I know full well it’s a superficial assimilation.  The acceptance in those moments – mental more than physical – makes me feel like I belong right where I’m standing.


words fail at the beauty of the sea beyond Nafplio




many words were shared amongst friends during our travels


words become action in the stadium for the first modern Olympics


words can’t do justice to the beauty of a Cretan sunrise

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