Put your hand in front of your mouth. Say the word, pit. Now, do it again. Only this time, spit (don’t actually spit—just say the word).
Did you feel it?
That small burst of air in the initial utterance, caused by an aspirated bilabial plosive—whatever that means? The lack of air within the second word, despite the fact that the <p> looks exactly the same? When my college classmate suggested breathing into the palm of my hand in order to discern my future, I assumed that I had nothing to lose—but it was this tiny exhalation that changed my life.
Aspiration was my gateway to phonetics—the study of speech sounds—but the other aspects of language were not far behind. While my ears attuned themselves to fricatives, nasal noises, and glottal stops, my morphological eyes started to spot prefixes, suffixes, and the ever-so-elusive interfix. Sentences were deconstructed through the study of syntax, while simple idioms were destroyed by semantics and pragmatics.
Linguistics was everywhere.
It existed in my college major, researching humor theory and analyzing episodes of Yo Momma on MTV. In an internship on Capitol Hill, articulating the beliefs of the “honorable Congressman from Arizona” to local constituents. And in my full-time role as an undergraduate admission counselor, communicating with students throughout the academic year.
During the warmer months, when no one wanted to talk about college, I would feed my addiction overseas—navigating conversations in Ireland while driving on the “wrong” side of the road, teaching French and Dutch students at a language immersion school in Belgium, or taking orders at a seaside bakery on the Ring of Kerry. Each destination came with an opportunity to analyze speech patterns, to understand the people behind the words, and to better understand myself.
Each destination came with an opportunity to analyze speech patterns, to understand the people behind the words, and to better understand myself.
I was addicted to language. To finding the deeper semantic meaning of an utterance, and determining the perfect way to express an idea. I craved that hit of dopamine when someone could hear themselves in my description, or when their face brightened during an anecdote. And as summer rolled around yet again, I wondered how I might achieve the next linguistic fix (“linguisfix”)—this time, without flying 4,000 miles away from my home in Webster Groves.
Through divine intervention (or truly intuitive SEO), an open Copywriter position came across my screen. The position called for an individual who, “deep down, underneath all of the professional manifestations of [their] talent, is a person who just flat out loves language.” As my hopes began to rise, the description continued, “If you’ve got 2-3 years of relevant writing experience…”
And just like that, I was out.
Through divine intervention (or truly intuitive SEO), an open Copywriter position came across my screen.
I had never worked in advertising—let alone copywriting. In fact, prior to some online research, my definition of “copywriter” was loose (at best). I hadn’t collaborated with art directors, showcased my persuasive writing skills, or studied content marketing principles.
But I was hooked. The opportunity to test my writing abilities, stretch my imagination, embrace my love of words, meet the needs of others, and learn about the creative process in one place was calling my name. So, I wrote a long message with one, simple plea…
“Take me on for the summer [...] You don’t have to pay me; you don’t even have to draw up any sort of contract. Allow me to serve your team, and to learn something in the process.”
And, somehow, it worked.