Gezelle was really fascinated by language. He collected words and dreamed of publishing a dictionary of the Flemish language.
Gezelle was obsessed by language. Everywhere he went, he collected words, proverbs and songs, even in the confessional. He also had a very extensive network of persons who sent him Flemish words. He noted the individual words on pieces of paper of the same size. His secretary Cordelia Van De Wiele was a great help. But everyone who came to visit was put to work.
“I had to arrange thousands of words alphabetically. I had to work through two packs of papers, each on its own, and then work them through each other again, then again two larger piles and so on. It was endless, it was forced labour! Of course I did not know those silly papers held hidden treasures. On each paper there was a word and a few scribbles of explanation; I arranged them, and so did my sister, when she happened to be in Courtrai, and we both did it against our will.”
“We were not even allowed to hum a song, nor did I whistle - and I do like whistling a nice tune - or there was a knock on the window that we had to be silent: we understood that very well. But we understood it even better when our uncle came standing in the doorway, dark and threatening.”
This is how Gezelle created his "Woordentas" (Word Stack): 50 boxes with 150.000 little sheets of paper on which he explained Flemish words. The word "tas" refers to a pile, a stack, a heap or a mountain. The collection is the result of Gezelle's dream of publishing a dictionary of the Flemish language. The "Woordentas" was on loan in Leiden (The Netherlands) from 1961 till 1999 for the compilation of the Dictionary of the Dutch Language.
In addition to the “Woordentas”, Gezelle also had other word collections such as curses and collections of spells and sayings, fairy tales, legends, songs and children's rhymes. To fulfill his collecting rage Gezelle noted words on virtually all possible bearers, such as these 52 playing cards.