Mighty Red Pen

January 20, 2008


Filed under: Lit review,Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 9:43 pm
Tags: ,

MRP was charmed to realize that Charlotte A. Cavatica is a fellow word nerd.


I’ve been rediscovering Charlotte’s Web after S. (age 4 1/2) watched the movie (1973 version) about a dozen times. It’s been years since I actually read the book myself, and I was delighted to realize how much it’s about language. I guess it shouldn’t have come as such a surprise — it is, after all, by one of my favorite word nerds, E.B. White.

Of course, there’s the indelible first moment that Wilbur and Charlotte meet:

Wilbur jumped to his feet. “Salu-what?” he cried.

“Salutations!” repeated the voice.

“What are they, and where are you?” screamed Wilbur. “Please, please, tell me where you are. And what are salutations?”

“Salutations are greetings,” said the voice. “When I say ‘salutations,’ it’s just my fancy way of saying hello or good morning. Actually, it’s a silly expression, and I am surprised I used it at all.”

This is just the first of several moments where the two discuss . . . vocabulary. They have similar conversations about the words sedentary, gullible, and languishing.

So much about Charlotte’s Web is about the power of words. As we all know, Charlotte uses words to save Wilbur’s life. She’s also a natural at PR. The book ends on a quaint and curious note:

Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. . . . She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.



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