David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 237: Missing Persons (Words)

March 26, 2023

I found an old Funk & Wagnalls Standard Desk Dictionary at a book sale recently. This 1983 edition had some pretty interesting stuff. Check out its "Editor's Note" at the beginning:

This 1983 edition is dedicated to Terry Bozzio, who, through his wife Dale and band Missing Persons, have recently asked "What are words for?" in their 1982 single, "Words." The song questions the value of words in a society "where no one listens anymore," a pretty audacious statement for a band fronted by a platinum blonde (with streaks of purple) in skimpy skirt and bra made out of plastic. No real mystery as to why no one is listening.

Allow us to address text and context, in other words, well, "words" -- both in this lovely leather-bound edition of Funk & Wagnalls and in the neon-bound edition of the Missing Persons' hit.

"Words," Terry and Dale, exist, to put it simply, to convey meaning. We suggest you go straight to page 1018, top of column two, and start with the definitions for Word. As with most of our entries, you will find many potential definitions, all of which portray a separate meaning. After that, we encourage you go to the entry for the key word in each meaning of word. Dictionaries are scavenger hunts that can go on forever. Throughout this 1983 edition, we celebrate how words build upon words.

Importantly, the F&W 1983 edition can resolve so many of the Bozzios' anxieties about even "talking at all." For instance, their album title Spring Session M provides us a perfect example of how "word" can be used with the first letter of another word to express a kind of humorous euphemism. Single letters can represent a word that represents a meaning. I suspect the Bozzios already know how to use the "F word", since the "M word" represents such a key word in the album title, the rest of "missing," well, missing. Very "clever" (see page 71, bottom of column two).

Words, additionally, are for someone to speak, as in a play. Such "actors" (see page 17, middle of column one) do speak to a wall, commonly a fourth wall. So, Mr. and Ms. Bozzio, you "might as well go up and talk to a wall," and then ask old Bill Shakespeare, or Euripedes, or Eugene O'Neill if all "the words have no effect at all." Since your own words, sung to that electronic riff, got your band to #42 in the Billboard Top 100, we suspect you already knew that your words would be heard, you sly devils.

As you look at the continued definitions of "word" on page 1019, first column, you will learn that to "have words" is not to just speak, but to speak angrily, especially during an argument. We "thinks" (Shakespearean use of "think", see page 865, first column) you protest too much, Terry and Dale, when you plead "let me get by over your dead body." "Dead body," the phrase itself, shows how words can connote meaning but not necessary fact. That can serve you well in a court of law. Let's hope such metaphorical references to "dead bodies" never come up in a future divorce settlement, Dale and Terry?

Speaking of potential divorces (and we are not forecasting anything), you'll also see with the definition of "word," that a promise can be implied by your "word." With divorces on the rise, the promise to love and honor for as long as you shall live gets challenged daily. Sometimes words are for contractual, real or metaphorical, purposes.

Words are also something you can eat, although certainly not of enough substance to help with Dale's skinny frame, which you leave all out there in your video. We suggest you plop yourselves down in front of a mirror to see just how much your video shows it is not "near impossible to cause distraction." In doing so, you might find yourselves "eating your words."

"For Words" can also suggest something beyond language, as in Dale's high-pitched singing of "and the sounds coming OUT," which critics might cite is almost too cute for words.

Or perhaps we all have been "missing" (see page 585, second column) your point, Missing Persons. If that is the case, we encourage you to drop us a note, which we will gladly correct by our next edition. That's the beautiful thing about words, they are as fluid as the world we live in, meaning driven by situations often not ever imagined.

My oh my, who would've thunk that dictionary editors would have such an attitude.

Missing Persons. "Words." Spring Session M. Capitol, 1982. Video link here.

Day 236: Buddy Holly "Words Of Love"

Day 238: Let's Active "Every Word Means No"

See complete list here.