Making waves

- Tingting Cojuangco () - January 20, 2002 - 12:00am
The word waves reminds me of a shell against my ear as I listen to its echo inside the conch I’m holding. My imagination brings me to the seas where every shade of blue is represented. Dark blue, gray blue and light blue, all belonging to the Celebes Sea around Tawi-Tawi. The colors have their own demarcation lines in very deep to slightly shallower depths.

The most famous connotation of waves is the swell of the ocean caused by the oscillation of water molecules. No, I’m not into chemistry. But then water molecules make the beach a restful escape all year round. Many are attracted to the calming effect of waves on the seashore. Many romantic walks have been taken along shores with the waves of the ocean rushing in and dashing out but still calming us with that feeling of oneness with nature in its serenity or loneliness. By the sea...what a perfect ambience for serious discernment.

But more than that, together with the wind, tides and currents, waves help shape landforms. And sometimes, the usually calming waves turn angry too. Frequently with storm warnings, gigantic waves pounce on surrounding shores with a force that damages life and property. A storm surge caused by hurricanes or undersea volcanic eruptions or tsunamis caused by earthquakes create a powerful upswelling of water and there bursts an immense catastrophe. Yes, my science teacher was excellent. Under those circumstances, waves are far from appealing.
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As a noun, waves may be used in many different ways too. For one, it can be used to describe a sudden overwhelming feeling as a wave of relief or a wave of sadness. It could also come to mean an advancing or incoming group of people as in a wave of immigrants. Third, a wave can be intended to denote a sudden occurrence of repeated activity as waves of destruction. So let’s try these then – Use the word waves in a sentence! Depending on your mindset, the word can have a variety of meanings.
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If you are a beautician, you might asso-ciate waves with a kind of hairstyle which is the art of making the hair slightly curled to give it more form and body. A series of waves firm and protruding from the head was fashioned for women in the ’20s to ’50s. My grandmother had waves on the side of her hair that were set in place overnight by long silver clips that held hairs to form waves, lifting the hair upward in waves.

If you’re into textile, waves could mean to create a wrinkled pattern in clothing material like for example on silk just a little bigger than the Issey Miyaki pleats. And, if you are a sports fan, you must have been part of some wave – a row of spectators at a sporting event who stand up raising their hands first, palms downwards then flipping up their arms upward above their heads then setting them down producing a series of swells, creating a rippling effect. What glee for a team in sporting events as a show of support.
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The most usage of the word wave is still as verb – to wave. Even as a verb, it could be construed to mean many things too. First, it is the act of moving the arm from side to side or up and down as a greeting or farewell, eliciting feelings of gladness as in waves of welcome then of sadness as in waves of goodbye. For royalty, a wave is moving the wrist from left to right slowly like the Queen Mother Elizabeth. To wave is also an act of dismissing something or somebody as inconsequential or negligible. "Never mind," "Go away," or "Some other time." With our love of hand signals, waves can be used to direct someone to a certain direction. It’s better than puckering the mouth or raising the eyebrows as Filipinos do by habit.

A wave is a motion. In physics, it is the theory of how energy is transmitted from one place to another without matter moving. Waves explain the concept behind sound, light, radio and x-ray and cell phones. Through their incessant studying and experimenting, scientists are also able to explain the phenomena of earthquakes and destructive forces. Hans Christian von Baeyer in an article in Discovery Magazine "The Ocean, the Stars and the Kitchen Sink" maintains that studying wave action on earth may help explain the secrets and multifarious phenomena in the depths of the galaxy.

A poignant association of the word waves has to do with World War II. If you are familiar with the military units of that war, you may remember that there were the WAAC’s (Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps), the WASP’s (Women’s Air Force Service Pilots) then there were the WAVES or the Women for Volunteer Emergency Service. It was a unit established in 1942 as part of the US Naval Force. They were clerks, drivers, telephone operators and cryptographers. In his book The Greatest Generation, American broadcaster Tom Brokaw chronicled many inspiring stories of World War II veterans. One of those was Claudine "Scottie" Scott who enlisted in the Navy’s female auxiliary called WAVES. She was an administrative assistant and a courier of highly sensitive materials. When asked why she enlisted, she quoted a cartoon that said, "I want to tell my children I was more than a pinup girl in the Great War." And this she was. After the war, she became a civic teacher and taught patriotism, respect for the presidency and love of country. At the age of 75, she looks back at "a life of service and self-reliance, a life of strong values and of an unapologetic love of country." After all, she was with the WAVES.

So I ask again, what’s in a word as we bid goodbye to 2001? A lot!
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