Category Archives: Language

An Important Language Note!

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The Gift of “Rectify”

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“It’s the beauty that hurts the most, not the ugly.” – Daniel

As a reader and lover of language, I sit in satisfied wonder after watching “Rectify.” It’s been said by many that it was the best show that no one was watching. Rarely do characters come so vivaciously to life, murmuring and whispering with such glib eloquence. Listening to the people in this show move through complicated lives in this show is the closest I’ve ever come to experiencing visuals as if they were a novel. Several times in the past, I’ve read of the love and admiration of this show and renewed my self-promise to immerse myself. Not until the show was finishing its run, however, did I stop gazing at it on my to-do list and start down the intricate road it travels. I regret not having been a part of it since it first aired but I will make amends by recommending it to anyone with a discerning taste for depth.

If you have the opportunity, please visit Netflix and give this treasure of a show an open door in your life. You won’t regret it, even if the pace seems to be too languid for you at the beginning. Oddly, if you describe yourself as an avid reader, I’m convinced that this show will be an immediate friend to your life.

The intelligence of this show astounds me. The people inhabiting the world it paints for us trip and fall, even as they see the obstacles in front of them. Countless times I watched the inevitable pain surprise them, only to see a parallel to my own life. The mirror it smashes into my face catches all the sublime idiocy of the steps we all take, regardless of the severity of circumstance.

From the show’s beginning, Daniel emerges from prison and instead of railing against the injustice, he perplexes everyone with a deeply insightful commentary on the world. I’ve had trouble explaining to people exactly what about the show was so captivating. “It’s about a man who is released from prison after almost 2 decades.” If that’s the case, “Sling Blade” is just a movie about an eccentric older man being let out of psychiatric care in the South. The particulars aren’t what brings forth the revelations: it’s the humanity inherent in so many scenes of this show.

It’s difficult for me to pull back from my enthusiasm for this show; it’s likely I’ve over-sold it people. Something about it forcefully reminds me of the wild emotion I felt the first time I finished “The Prince of Tides” and heard the words, “Lowenstein, Lowenstein, Lowenstein” reverberate in my mind.

If you need a gift for yourself, I recommend that you find a quiet moment to step away from your real life, sit down, and give “Rectify” the chance it deserves to unfold the way television should be revealed. It avoids the mega-dose of plot twists that doom so many potentially great tv shows or movies. Don’t let the initial premise of a condemned man’s unexpected release from prison trick you into thinking you understand what this show is about. The story is about us, individually and collectively, careening around the backdrop of what it means to be human.

The show itself is a crescendo of discovery as the seasons reveal themselves. By the end of season 4, you will find yourself under the gossamer veil of nostalgia, for a world you would love to live in. As the show ends, you will find yourself feeling restless for unknown highways and side roads, all hopefully leading to places where people like Daniel Holden might feel at home. (And allow us a moment to sit in their presence.)

If you are lucky, it will reveal glimpses of your own self that you’ve kept hidden slightly around the corner.

“Finding peace in the not knowing seems strangely more righteous than the peace that comes from knowing.” – Daniel

 

 

Disvidisia

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After reading a friend’s post about the perplexity of attention, I began to wonder whether a precise word exists for the sensation she was attempting to describe. I volunteered to create a word to encompass the described sensation.

Before going off on a wordy tangent, here’s my paraphrasing of what she was describing:

“…the untethered feeling you get when you see that an acquaintance shows deep interest in the happenings in some far-flung place or in the life of a distant stranger, acreage they’ll never traverse or people he or she will never meet and whose trajectory may as well be that of an alien star, regarding some mundane subject, while turning a blind eye toward your own…”

I think writers and artists might be the most prone to experience this detachment.

On a personal level, I think it would encompass the act of finding yourself passionately sharing a deeply personal revelation about oneself, only to turn and find the person you expect to be listening has left the room from boredom. Or, hearing people idly complain that social media is nothing except boring kindling for online fights.

This post should be directly on the path of interest for the fans of The Dictionary Of Obscure Sorrows.

Ain’t

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Past participles can kiss my ass. Especially those involving irregular verbs.
…i had went
…i had gone

I know the correct version – and don’t care.

Okay, I do care, a little.

I’m not too concerned about my grammar making me look dumb. Many already argue the content and breadth of what I create does a remarkable job of that.

If verb tenses make you tenser, then you are a member of the cabal which will always be a grammatical advice dispenser, and perhaps perpetually denser. And I’m certainly no sit-on-the-fencer. I side with the great unwashed, the ignorant, and those who choose to march to an epileptic drummer – letters and words flying about without rhyme or reason. Given enough time, words do mean what we agree they mean and the squiggles we use to write our language succumb to the way we speak them.

With spelling and grammar checks and services such as Grammarly, it’s easier than ever to avoid mistakes. (We need Grammarly in the voting booth, too.) The problem is that while we beguile ourselves with the idea that there is any definitive compendium of language and usage, it simply isn’t true. Language is evolving even as I write these words. Don’t get me wrong, I cringe away from certain usage. But if it takes hostage the conventions of such things as semicolon continuity and phonetically disadvantaged spelling, I can applaud its ugly face.

There are times when I amuse myself and find the posts of someone who is adamant about grammar. I’ve never done so without finding something to quibble about. I don’t bother worrying about my writing, for multiple reasons. If someone wants to criticize my dancing while they sit against the gymnasium wall, I don’t mind, and not just because my dancing can best be described as “running while on fire.” Language is not an exact science; those who loathe evolving language come across as those few scientists who deny evolution itself.

I certainly can do much, much better in terms of grammar, whether I’m writing in Spanish or English. But I won’t, at least not until you pay me to, or give me an agricultural subsidy for not writing. We do ourselves a disservice by scaring those who would share tidbits and stories but neglect to do so when putting those same ideas into word scribbles on paper; the medium isn’t the content.

Misusing verbs is how most of our irregular verbs came into existence. Given that I studied almost 500 of these bastards in my youth, in two languages, I’d like to point out that my education didn’t lead to agreement with the huge list of so-called rules. Some verb forms are intensely interesting – and more so when used with no intention of following standard rules.

It is a rare unicorn of an English speaker who can not only name the 50 verb tenses but who can also simply say, “Future Perfect Continuous” and then use the 400 or so irregular verbs correctly in said tense. Add in the subjunctive mode for verbs and you have the recipe for silent weeping in a dusty, dimly-lit corner. I’ve met a few people who claim to know them all but closer inspection proves their braggadocio to be misplaced.

The same inconsistency insists that I can’t loan you money, because ‘loan’ isn’t a verb. That sort of grammatical statute is not just counterproductive, but stupid. Usage will inevitably trump esoteric rules, no matter how often furrowed brows and curled lips react to alleged misuse. I’ll loan you a dictionary so you can look it up. Or I’ll gift it to you, and you can regift it later. (PS: ‘gift’ isn’t a verb, either, even though I just used it exactly in that way with no loss of understanding.)

While I don’t like “regardless,” it is a word, no matter how stridently you object. It appeared as early as 1785. Because people use it incorrectly, it will indeed transition to become more popular than the purported correct word, “regardless.” I won’t belabor the beautiful word “literal,” either because despite the hatred people show it, it has been used in a figurative way for hundreds of years and by some of our most esteemed authors. I loved watching a recent “Adam Ruins Everything” show that delineated that “ain’t” indeed was once a respected word used almost exclusively by the noble and wealthy. I bet that ain’t something you will swallow without a useless argument.

People routinely use “bring” and “take” interchangeably, as well as “who” and “whom.” It’s not only because they don’t understand it, but also because “whom” is a damnably stupid word in the first place, evoking all the cumbersome superiority of “thou” from the Bibles of our youth. It needs to be plied forcibly from our language or used only mockingly. “Farther” and “further” are great examples of words using LSD and insisting we recognize them both.

I know that you’re thinking we can’t have anarchy with language. We already do, you just don’t know it. Despite there being a general structure to hold our behemoth language at bay, we don’t have a ruling body to determine vocabulary and grammar. Usage and popularity determine these, even as defenseless English and grammar teachers vainly work to stem the tide of incorrect usage. In this ongoing war of language, you must take arms against those who insist there a perfect form of our language exists; otherwise, you must wave your white flag now.

Language Is Communication, Not Math…

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For those who obsess over nuances such as semicolon appropriateness, you are of course correct in your insistence but wrong in your logic.

Language is communication, not math; authoritative attempts toward grammatical obedience leads to a cabal of ignored perfectionists, their collective pomp drawing the wrong kind of attention. Those using the language own it; if you find yourself outnumbered by those who refuse allegiance to the arcane rules of grammatical engagement, your only recourse is to use language as you see fit.

It is a gross assumption to claim that we commonly agree on the rules of language.

English is a voracious language and fluid in its spectacle. Most of the errors we perceive in our judgment of its usage tend to be the fault of the preposterous litany of illogical and capricious rules which allegedly govern it. Humans will never willingly pay homage to rules which betray the twin paths of practicality and reason.

When used with creative vigor, it is true that language is a beautiful governess attending to us. When used as a dead repository of grammatical obligations, it is a scorned woman yanking at her own hair.

Time teaches us that entropy destroys even the illusion of consistency in the form and content of our words. Grammar is the imagined road map to a place which no one gleefully visits, while spelling is the witchcraft of barking dogs in a canyon a mile distant.

Each language holds its own secrets and none owe allegiance to others or even its own previous incarnation. It all adds up to a frenzied verbal fist fight with usage always being the declared victor. We can weep at its frenzied evolution but we cannot contain it, even as our objections mount skyward.

If you doubt any of this to be true, learn another language as intensely as your first. Language embodies all the beauty and dismay of man himself.