Thank you to my friend Nissa Enos for writing a fantastic essay and poem about the word “stylus.” Ms. Enos lives with her family in Manitowoc, Wis. She likes science, nature, and art.
These pieces are about aword and about a boat. I hope you enjoy her reflection as much as I do. I tried to write about “Stylus” before. You may read my take here.
A discussion opened up the other day; it centered on the meaning of the word stylus.
You might think that the word stylus only applies to a writing utensil that is used with a computer, however, stylus actually means any tool used for inscribing the written word. Is a quill pen a stylus? Yes. Is a Bic pen a stylus? Yes.
Although typically applied to a tool for writing, stylus can also mean any utensil used for inscribing non-language imprints on a surface. One example would be in sculpture. While the clay is still wet, the sculptor may use a stylus to imprint patterns or other detail on the surface.
In addition to writing and sculpture, there are many other uses of “stylus.” When we listen to vinyl, a diamond-carrying stylus receives signal from the bumps inside the grooves of the record. In geology, the seismograph detects vibrations within Earth and uses a stylus arm and ink to plot those vibrations on a scrolling paper tape. I wonder if you could set up a seismograph in your basement or yard and use it to track nearby road traffic. The occasional passing of a train would be cause for much excitement. A nearby, loud thunder clap shakes above-ground structures quite a bit. How much of that pressure wave translates into Earth vibration? A stylus (attached to, of course, a properly set-up seismograph) could reveal the answer.
The creator is at the handle end, and the viewer takes in what the creator has imprinted.
Oh, and there is one other definition of Stylus. She is a cool sailboat from Manitowoc, Wis. She is dark blue and has a natural wood sail holder. She is often on the Lake but sometimes she comes up the Manitowoc River.
What is the Stylus? The sail is the handle, guided by two creators, the wind and the captain. The hull on the water is the imprinting tip. The Stylus’s line, her word, her story, is the journey she traces over the waves. Who creates the record? Who will read it?
We are too small to read the record, and know what it means completely. Instead, we find ourselves poised at that active vantage point, riding the nib of the pen, watching the line being writ, seeing from water level, but only imagining the view from above, the course being charted, wondering what message we are part of tracing out.