I found this quote from Karl Kraus in a book of Walter Benjamin’s fragments. I’m struggling to find the original source but I can’t stop thinking about the experience it describes:
The more closely you look at a word, the more distantly it stares back at you.
The uncanny tendency for meaning to recede as you stare closely at the individual components which carry it, feeling the semantics get swamped by the arbitrary phonetics of the word. It’s a very odd feeling which I remember being unsettled by as a child without being able to explain to adults what was bothering me. In retrospect I wonder if this was my first experience of philosophically induced anxiety.