I’m about to head into center city today to recover from a long but fulfilling weekend. I want to do some writing. I think I’ll take just a pen and paper. Sometimes the old fashioned way works best.
These plans got me to thinking some random thoughts about language:
Most school students are taught countless things about writing style—how to make the writing more interesting, etc. But I’m not sure how many of us are taught how to bring more substance to our writing, to our ideas. I know I’m still working on this.
When I was in school we had teachers who seemed to be more concerned about certain pet peeves, e.g. words that are to be avoided. Two of these words have turned out to be some of my favorite.
“Is” is the first. “Well it depends upon what the definition of ‘is’ is,” infamously said Bill Clinton in his deposition which might well have been little more than an elaborate set-up. Beyond this freak show from the 90’s, “is” doesn’t get much thought or attention. “Is” is boring, said my teachers. But I say that on this word hinges so much. With “is,” writers declare where they stand. When Murray Rothbard wrote that “the State is a parasite,” he was making a very clear, very daring statement. “Is” gets at the essential nature of ideas; it makes arguments from definition, which Richard Weaver said is the foremost kind. I love this word.
The second word is “thing.” Some teachers say, “Tell me what it is. What kind of thing?” But there is still great delight in this word. A thing is something that is, or something like that, and I think that’s very neat. Around the word “thing” revolve all the mysteries of existence, from the sensate level on up. To say “thing” thoughtfully is to be in constant wonder.
That’s all for now. File this one under “fragmented obsessions,” and note that Richard Weaver is likely more responsible for this post than I am.