I'll take that under advisement with the council. I get a lot of ideas during the day. More than I can possibly organize, much less write about. They're everywhere -- on post-it notes and book marks, in margins and back covers, in spiral bound notebooks, sometimes even on the back of my hand. I swear, I have a coffee cup containing dogeared bookmarks with scribbled notes, some of which may be as old as the blog itself.
In fact, let me grab a handful and see what they say. Maybe I can finally recycle them.
The first one is a little trite, or at least I don't get the deeper significance. Let's move on. Hmm. Some have vocabulary words written on them, for which I probably have no use. Some authors like to deploy rare and unusual words to demonstrate how intelligent they are, even though it interrupts the flow of ideas. Many of them are out of town words like soupçon, aperçus, dishabille, purlieu, recherché, deliquesce, avois dupois, parti pris, clerihew, obiter dictum...
There are many more, some of which have the definitions next to them. I try to remember the meanings, but there's really no point, since I'll probably never see them again, nor is it likely I would ever use them in a sentence. I like to be understood, plus I'm generally writing about subjects that require deep and sustained focus. Interrupting the flow with obscure foreign phrases draws attention to the form instead of the substance.
Yes, yes, I know, I am hardly one to complain, being that I so often make up my own words. Well, that's different. Those are meant to be fun, not work. I don't imbue them with private meanings accessible to no one else.
Anyway, even if I had these exotic words at my fingertips, it is unlikely I would ever use them, because I prefer the common ones. Besides, it's not the words you use, but the way you arrange them. Using obscure words cannot rescue a poorly organized sentence. If you really know what you're talking about, you should be able to explain it in such a way that a 13 year old can understand it.
It reminds me of something Churchill said: "Short words are best and the old words when short are best of all." Obviously he was a powerful communicator, but he didn't have to use obscure words to convey the power. True, he tossed in more than a few obscure ones, but that's partly because of the very different time and place in which he grew up.
Hmm. While looking up that Churchillism I stumbled upon many more I've highlighted, all having to do with language, writing, and communication. They're all right here, just waiting to be used in a future post. I guess that post is now.
"Clarity and cogency can be reconciled with a greater brevity... it is slothful not to compress your thoughts." Indeed, "It is sheer laziness not compressing thought into a reasonable shape." As Dávila says, we ought to "Write concisely, so as to finish before making the reader sick."
To one of his prolix cabinet members, he wrote that his memo, "by its very length, defends itself against the risk of being read." More generally, he detested that "kind of vague palimpsest of jargon and officialese with no breadth, no theme, and above all, no facts."
Get to the point!: "don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time."
In the language department Trump is obviously no Churchill, but he is a pile driver. Compare this to Obama, who fancied himself a wordsmith but who spoke in leaden clichés and indeed never conveyed an original idea or uttered a witty remark.
Liberals and their feeling-based thinking have always been with us: "It is a deplorable thing" when such people "allow their language to be rather the means of giving relief to their feelings than an actual description of the facts." I came across a typical example this morning of someone whose "Climate Grief" has prepared her for the Corona Dread. Not very well, I guess:
I’ve been crying a lot. So much I worry that my neighbors can hear me through the plaster walls of my apartment building in the South Bronx....
I feel like I’m floating on an ominous cloud of dull terror, or flailing through molasses. There’s a lump in my throat. Everything is heavy. Everything is hard. Even as I type this, my fingers are shaking, and I have to take long pauses to do something, literally anything, else. Often, I just stare at the wall.
No wonder so many young people are committing suicide. This is not the year 1020. There is treatment for mental illness.
At the other end of the linguistic spectrum, "official jargon can be used to destroy any kind of human contact or even thought itself."
Speaking of bad writing, Churchill thought Mein Kampf so awful that he even compared it to the Koran: "turgid, verbose, shapeless, but pregnant with its message."
How's this for a coincidence: he even penned a bit of adolescent doggerel about some kind of oriental bug that seems to have been going around in 1890: Oh how shall I its deeds recount / Or measure the untold amount / Of ills that it has done? / From China's bright celestial land / E'en to Arabia's thirsty sand / It journeyed with the sun.
Anticipating Madonna's deep thoughts on the strict egalitarianism of the virus, It made a direful swoop; / The rich, the poor, the high, the low / Alike the various symptoms know, / Alike before it droop.... And with unsparing hand, / Impartial, cruel and severe / It travelled on allied with fear / And smote the fatherland.
Then it jumped across the channel to threaten even Freedom's isle itself. Get well, Boris!
The New York Times? Washington Post? "Fancy cutting down those beautiful trees we saw this afternoon to make pulp for those bloody newspapers, and calling it civilization."
Politically correct abuse of language? "I hope I live to see the British democracy spit all this rubbish from their lips."
Here's to frankness and simplicity: "All the greatest things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: Freedom; Justice; Honor; Duty; Mercy; Hope."