Why words matter…

So, if you’ve spent any time here reading the words I post you will have likely picked up on the fact that I think words matter. The reason I am so interested how we use the word Modern is not so much because I think we need to use a particular definition (though I certainly have an understanding that I favor), but because there seem to be so many definitions floating around out there that it is nearly impossible to actually have an in-depth conversation about modern quilting.

I’m not going to dive back into that right now; the combination of Bee and Rabbit is keeping me on a rather short leash these days, especially with QuiltCon and my manuscript deadline right around the corner. But I was thinking about how words get used last night and remembered this example, from Cracker Barrel…

We stopped in a Cracker Barrel to feed Bee on a road trip last summer, under duress I might add. I was drawn to the wall of quilts, such as they are, and ran into this description:


I love this phrase: “It has an intricately designed hand crafted pattern.” What the hell does that mean. There is nothing hand-crafted about this actual quilt, but I suppose the pattern could have been hand-crafted. Pretty much everything, if you go back far enough, has a connection to the human hand. But for Cracker Barrel this is a way to slip the phrase “hand crafted” into the description; it doesn’t say it is hand made per se, but does a lot to put a potential buyer into that frame of mind. It is not a falsehood, but an obfuscation, or at least an equivocation.

(I also love the phrase “a soothing cream-white color,” you know, in case you are buying a Cracker Barrel quilt for a dangerous psychopath, but I digress.)

You see, the words we use and how we use them matter. Far too often I see words like fresh and clean and modern used so casually without a regard for what they might really mean or imply. If your quilt is fresh, does that mean that other designs are stale? Are fresh and clean fundamentally components of modern? Is modern necessarily a good thing? Modern is a complicated word with a fraught past; as modern history has show the line between the utopian and the totalitarian is razor thin.

Perhaps it is the process of finishing up my QuiltCon talks, and re-editing my manuscript for the umpteenth time, but I am feeling really close to words these days. In a lot of ways I feel like this may be the year of words for Modern Quilting, and an important one for determining its future. And in that process I just hope we can always keep in mind the notion that words really matter.

Yay words!!!


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