One of my favorite Far Sides shows a spider on an analyst's couch, saying, "It's the same dream night after night...I walk out on my web, and suddenly a foot sticks-and then another foot sticks, and another, and another, and another...." Gary Larsen's spider expresses the impression that people who are fascinated by language have: language is like a web. I spin it out thinking that I have it under control, and suddenly it seems I am caught in the system of words. I open my mouth to speak, and suddenly words appear or disappear, the wrong words come, or unintentional double meanings embarrass me like slipping on a banana peel. Or I get entangled in what I' m trying to express or in the associations of words with each other. Language helps us get what we want. However, we are caught in it also, tantalized by and yet separated from what we most deeply desire.
Ankeny, Rebecca, "The Mother Tongue: Acquiring Language and Being Human" (1996). Truth's Bright Embrace: Essays and Poems in Honor of Arthur O. Roberts. 28.