“Each letter is a world, each word is a universe”

Here are two texts inviting one to reflect on words and languages.

Words, I imagine often, are small houses with cellars and attics. Common sense lives on the ground floor, always ready to have dealings with the outside world, on level footing with others, this passer- by who is never a dreamer. To go up the staircase in this house of words becomes step by step more abstract. Going down into the cellar, is to dream, to lose oneself in the distant corridors of an uncertain etymology, it is searching words for treasures which are not to be found. To go up or down, in the same words , is the life of a poet. To go up too high, to go down too low is allowed the poet who joins the earthly to the heavenly. Is it only the philosopher who will be condemned by his equals to live always on the ground floor?

Gaston Bachelard, Poétique de l'espace, Paris, 1957


… words which serve as a support to thought must be used in every possible position, in the most varied expressions. They must be turned and turned again on all their sides, in the hope that that a gleam of light might shoot out, their sounds must be palpated and examined so that the secret of their meaning may be perceived, the assonances and resonances of words do they not possess the virtue of inspiration?

Vladimir Jankélévitch, Quelque part dans l'inachevé, Paris, 1978