Kathleen Ossip is the author of The Do-Over, a New York Times Editors' Choice. She was a 2016-2017 fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and she teaches at The New School in New York.
For years I have been trying to find out how far back a few particular English words, or their usage in certain contexts, can be traced. “Blues” and “jazz” are two of the words. A lot of good work has been done on their etymologies, but when I got into the primary sources, I realized, with joy, that some remained to be done.
Webster’s definition for the word “something”—which it labels a pronoun, an adverb, and an adjective—is, “Some indeterminate and unspecified thing.” The OED adds, “material or immaterial.” That seems often to be what the word signifies in a poem. Shakespeare loves the word for its full range of possibilities, banal to sublime.
The taxi took the curves of the unmarked army road over the mountain, muffler rattling. Hayes rolled down her window. The air was heavy with fragrance, something like wild dill, yellow and blooming by the road, bright against the scrub and dry brush. She looked down at an expanse of clouds that she knew was hiding a deep blue stretch of ocean.