Jan's Journal: What The Term "Bookworm" Means To Me

Remember the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words”? Run it backwards to say, “a thousands words is worth a picture”. Isnt this what happens when you read a book that grabs you with the way it tells a story? Sometimes it becomes a movie running visually in the mind. There are meaningful words that also create an instant picture in the mind. An example of this kind word is associated with the love of books, “bookworm”.

I like earthworms and the work they do for the soil, but, I cant stand the word, “bookworm” and almost never use it. The term brings a visual picture of silverfish and various beetle larvae chewing through words needed to explain or share-worthy thoughts and ideas. The destruction is disheartening. Actual bookworms are not so prevalent in modern books because the old volumes fed them better. The binding paste used in the past attracted the critters as well as the fact much of the paper was made of rags and plant fiber. This was their gourmet platter.

The term was first traced to the 1590s and was used in a derogatory way, meaning a person who studied or read more than usual. The readers were compared to insects that lived inside books. Because of the invention of the Gutenburg (movable type) Press , circa 1439, book ownership became more common which in turn evolved into libraries. I imagine the “book groupies” that hung out in book places, irritated the staff by continuously asking for their services which interrupted whatever the staff was reading. The history of human nature could have generated the term, “bookworm”.

Nowadays, “bookworm” is used humorously, like the word, “nerd”, it has softened in application. I prefer words like scholar, intellectually curious, or informed. Books are a constant in a world of shifting changes. My constant is that I refuse to be called “bookworm”. I am a “booklover”.

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