Saturday, May 25, 2013
I grew up when we were taught copperplate writing in school. The strokeswere not just 'varying widths' -- the upstrokes were fine and light, andthe downstrokes were heavier and therefore wider. This was not easy toachieve, but we had exercise books (called 'copy books') with special lineson them to give us the height and depth of the upstrokes and downstrokes,and we spent many hours doing 'writing practice' in my childhood.
Who will consider that no dictionary of a living tongue ever can be perfect, since, while it is hastening to publication, some words are budding, and some falling away; that a whole life cannot be spent upon syntax and etymology, and that even a whole life would not be sufficient; that he, whose design includes whatever language can express, must often speak of what he does not understand.
An insult, real or perceived, once resulted in a duel. To defend one'shonor meant to kill someone or to get killed. Thankfully, those timesare behind us. Duels are now part of history, but bar-fights and otheraltercations show that we haven't outgrown our revenge mentality.
Here's another option. Imagine a world where a slight called for a verbalduel. The two parties get together and hurl the choicest adjectives at eachother. Spectators cheer them on. And in the end the two shake hands and,having vented, go home.
Imagine that to prepare for this fight the parties involved don't driveto a gun shop. Instead they head to the biggest, baddest dictionary theycould lay their hands on and pick out words. The more obscure, the morecolorful, the better. If your opponent can't even understand the word youhurl at him what hope has he?
Consider this week's words as ammunition* -- don't let them fall into thehands of little children.
*Ammunition is a generic term derived from the French language la munition which embraced all material used for war (from the Latin munire, to provide), but which in time came to refer specifically to gunpowder and artillery.
"Different languages highlight the varieties of human experience, revealing as mutable aspects of life that we tend to think of as settled and universal, such as our experience of time, number, or color. In Tuva, for example, the past is always spoken of as ahead of one, and the future is behind one's back. 'We could never say, I'm looking forward to doing something,' a Tuvan told me. Indeed, he might say, 'I'm looking forward to the day before yesterday.' It makes total sense if you think of it in a Tuvan sort of way: If the future were ahead of you, wouldn't it be in plain view?"
Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I hadwords instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My languagetrembles with desire. -Roland Barthes
One of my first beaus once sent me an arrangement of all pink flowers. Thecard that accompanied it said something like, "I hope these flowers mirroryour countenance." (I gather the florist thought the note was wanting,and advocated for something different, but my would-be beau would not bedissuaded). It took me a bit to figure out what the note said because it toreas I opened the wrapping, obscuring a good portion of the word countenance,and it is true, that it is not often found on notes accompanying flowers(at least in recent decades) so I was rather stumped. Compounding theproblem, I think, was this whole idea of hoping the flowers mirrored myface. I reasoned that the flowers were to be pink, which the boy knew,so there was no need to hope that they mirrored my countenance. I thoughtI must be missing something, but now realize that wooing the grammarianis tricky business indeed! In the end, I found I could not countenancethe boy, and we went our separate ways.
The words a father speaks to his children in the privacy of the home are not overheard at the time, but, as in whispering galleries, they will be clearly heard at the end and by posterity.
?'In English the verb goes in the middle of a sentence (I love you), while some languages relegate it to the end (I you love). This may sound preposterous to those not familiar with such a language (German, Hindi, Japanese, among others), but it's quite common.' For German, however, this is only partly true, i.e. in subordinate clauses. In a main clause as 'I love you', the order of the words is the same as in English ("ich liebe dich").
- Anonymous, Male, India