It was Winnie-the-Pooh who declared himself to be foolish and deluded and that long words bothered him. He has my sympathy. But short words bother me too. Like zoa and nova and vow, which – for all their brevity – have huge meaning. Zoa is the plural of zoon (not to be confused with Zoom which has become particularly familiar in recent times.) Zoa are organisms – titchy word, massive subject. Nova: a star that suddenly increases its light output in a gigantic manner, then fades away to obscurity. Tiny word, huge meaning. And vow, not a flippant promise that is unlikely to be kept, but a deeply meaningful promise. Such little words, if placed strategically on a Scrabble board, can add many points to your score.

During the last five months, a Scrabble board has decorated one end of our kitchen table. We don’t sit down to play but, in turn, put down a word when we’re passing. A game might take several days or a week to complete. But it’s been a good way of using little grey cells and little cream tiles to keep the brain ticking over when other activities have been curtailed. Zoa, nova and vow are on our current game board.

Short words, long words, little meaning, massive meaning. Might you use zoa, nova and vow in a conversation with someone? Possibly not, but whatever words we use with others, we might take these proverbs as a guide: Intelligent people think before they speak… Kind words are like honey – sweet to the taste and good for your health… A person’s words can be a source of wisdom, deep as the ocean, fresh as a flowing stream. Happy word-making!


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