I do writing workshops with women who are currently living in shelters. They teach me extraordinary things.
Most recently, the meaning of prehensile.
It came up in one of the exercises where we give each other a word and the word T. gave me was prehensile.
It had a vague ring about it, I was sure I’d heard it before… maybe… but I couldn’t put it into context. “Pre what?” I said. And T. smiled, said a monkey’s tail was prehensile. “Anything like that,” she said. “I watch a lot of nature shows.”
So the exercise was to use the word as a prompt to write fast and without thinking for a couple of minutes. And this is what I wrote:
Pre tail? Do I assume hensile means tail? Before tail? Where’s the monkey part fit in? I mean in terms of word origins—I’ll be figuring this out for a long time—I’ll be discussing it with friends: do you know what prehensile means, I’ll say, and I can guarantee you several will say… pre what?? And so it will go. And this is the beauty of not knowing because we’re never the only one who doesn’t. What somebody knows, another is clueless about and so on. None of us knows it all, which is a fine thing to remember. In fact I honestly consider it a good day when I bump into a word I don’t know or one I’ve heard but can’t actually say I know the meaning of, like when you read a book and don’t quite get the meaning, you can’t actually say what it means, but you get the gist of it, enough to keep reading. About monkey tails though—I wonder when we lost ours.
I wonder what direct descendant of mine was the last to have a tail and where he or she lived and what was their favourite colour…
(Please don’t look for a lot of meaning here. Notice I’ve filed this post under Blather and ShillyShally. Am partial to a regular dollop of both. Essential at times. Also, it’s Friday. Also, if you happen to play the pick a word game and want to share the spoils… I’ll welcome that with pleasure and a pot of tea.)
Photos taken at Story Book Primate Sanctuary, in Sunderland.
Important to say THIS IS NOT A ZOO. The animals here are rescued from horrible circumstances and given a chance to live in a safe environment. (The guy in the pic is Rudy… found in a storage locker with a lot of other ‘exotic’ animals… People, eh? Prehensile is better.)
More info here… and a fabulous place to send loose change.