The way it seems complicated to say. I bet it would’ve been a word I’d have struggled with in speech therapy. If, you know, I hadn’t dropped it after 5th grade. The interesting appearance of it. You don’t see that combination of letters often. The way it starts unexpectedly. It’s the prefix that jumps at you: juxta. The root and the suffix are common enough: posit and ion. And that’s the beauty of it.
I saw that word for the first time during my sophomore year of college. I was at Hirshhorn Art Museum on a date with a hearing guy. Cute guy, tall, smart… he didn’t know ASL though. We were getting to know each other by typing back and forth on our phones when he commented on the juxtaposition of something. I didn’t know what the word meant. Rather than own up to it, I tried to be vague:
what do u mean?
He said something that implied he was comparing and contrasting whatever it is that he was pointing at (I will never claim to be one of those people that have a sharp memory). I have no idea what I did next. Probably attempted to look thoughtful while nodding my head seriously. But what I do know is later that night (probably) I looked it up:
the fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect.“the juxtaposition of these two images”
The second my brain absorbed and processed the word, the Baader-Meinhoff Phenomenon began to take effect, as per usual. After that night, I started seeing “juxtaposition” everywhere. A person I didn’t realize I was Facebook-friends with posted a striking photo of one tree, half of it during the blazing autumn and the other half of it during the bitter winter; she was admiring the juxtaposition of it. An English assignment asked for an analysis on the juxtaposition of two poems against each other. A fashion magazine swooned over the juxtaposition of hard leather and delicate lace. Pretty soon, I was familiar with the word.
The thing about juxtaposition is, learning what it meant didn’t just add a word to my vocabulary; its definition gave me new lens. Understanding that there was such a thing as the concept of juxtaposition made me see things differently. A picture of a baby’s hand on an elderly’s used to seem corny to me, but now the juxtaposition of fresh, young life against a well-lived skin made me look a little deeper.
The gentrification map of DC. The sweet singing of Ares, God of War. A bloody murder in a field of fresh snow.
Writing challenge prompt 7/30: Write about one of your favorite words.