Sunlit Water

January 8, 2007

The Aesthetics Of Language

Filed under: Language — by teofilo @ 3:19 am

This is not actually true (though this is); for instance, I find Ben’s use of unsplit infinitives stilted and inelegant.  I just don’t care about dividing neologisms into “obnoxious jargon” and “words the language really needed.”

(This, by the way, is true as a general rule.)



  1. Not quite related, but it’s apparently now just about impossible to get a collection of stories published. Short stories are all about the aesthetics of language. Far more so than longer works. And they’re just dead. Dead.

    Comment by ac — January 8, 2007 @ 11:35 am |Reply

  2. I’m much more friendly to “normative” views of English usage, as classically defended in Dwight Macdonald’s essay The Decline and Fall of English—I prefer desktop dictionaries based on Webster’s Second, not Third, for instance—than you are, but I’ve always thought Wolfson’s pedantry was a sort of elaborate put-on. On the other hand, I just peeled a banana from its nub end.

    Comment by idontpay — January 8, 2007 @ 1:44 pm |Reply

  3. No, I think Wolfson means it. He corrected me in person, involuntarily, just like I used to do before I decided I would rather have friends. I was totally cool with that, ’cause it reminds me of how I used to be, and because he didn’t correct anything that I didn’t already know to be a grammatical mistake, but have chosen to say anyway in an effort to speak more colloquially.

    Comment by Megan — January 8, 2007 @ 2:16 pm |Reply

  4. Linking issues! Second link should go here.

    Comment by Matt Weiner — January 8, 2007 @ 5:52 pm |Reply

  5. It’s supposed to sound stilted. That’s why I do it. I’ve explained this before.

    Comment by ben wolfson — January 8, 2007 @ 8:27 pm |Reply

  6. Isn’t the grammar obsession both an involuntary impulse and an elaborate put-on? He works it, Megan. Telling him to abandon it is like encouraging Magritte to lose the bowler hats.

    Comment by ac — January 8, 2007 @ 9:35 pm |Reply

  7. I know why you do it, Ben. I’m just saying I don’t like it. De gustibus etc.

    Comment by teofilo — January 8, 2007 @ 10:58 pm |Reply

  8. I didn’t tell him to abandon it, and have said on several occasions that I found Ben charming. (I found you charming, Ben.) I like how he works it.

    Comment by Megan — January 8, 2007 @ 11:50 pm |Reply

  9. The “rather have friends” thing sounds like admonition. And I would agree, normally.

    Comment by ac — January 9, 2007 @ 12:03 am |Reply

  10. I can see how it sounded like that. I didn’t mean that, though. I was tactlessly repeating the way I framed my choice to give up my Dad’s formal grammar and enunciation. I truly didn’t mean it to have any implications for anyone else. I’m usually pretty upfront about giving advice when that’s what I mean to do. (No offense intended, Ben. Are we ever gonna go to a show in Oakland?)

    Comment by Megan — January 9, 2007 @ 1:25 am |Reply

  11. Did we all have Dads like that? I know I did. We’re the same with our kids, but less judgmental, more “Don’t you mean to say?” And we try to be funny about it. My son has a comeback now: he’ll thump and hum a bit of rhythm, then lean in and in a gravely voice, sing “Whom do you love?”

    Comment by idontpay — January 9, 2007 @ 2:13 pm |Reply

  12. My dad used to mock his boss’s misspellings by copying them in his replies and putting [sic] afterwards. It’s amazing he ever got to GS-14.

    Comment by ac — January 9, 2007 @ 2:28 pm |Reply

  13. Did your Dad correct the notes your teachers sent home in red pen? When my sister or I wanted something from my dad (borrow the car, advance on allowance) our grammar and pronunciation got very good all of a sudden. And… I am also tremendously grateful that I can deviate from a foundation of correct English, rather have to struggle to learn it.

    Comment by Megan — January 9, 2007 @ 4:32 pm |Reply

  14. My daughter, who is sixteen, left a comment at Unfogged today:

    That kind of clear writing doesn’t come from nowhere, but from practice and instruction, what the Protestant baptism calls “nurture and admonition.”

    Comment by idontpay — January 9, 2007 @ 6:38 pm |Reply

  15. My sister and I were fairly young when we began correcting my Dad’s spelling.

    Comment by eb — January 9, 2007 @ 7:38 pm |Reply

  16. my s/b our

    Comment by eb — January 9, 2007 @ 7:39 pm |Reply

  17. 9: I felt its admonitory force, and was chastened.

    Comment by ben wolfson — January 9, 2007 @ 8:26 pm |Reply

  18. Aw crap. I should be more careful. I seriously didn’t mean for it to apply to anyone but me.

    Comment by Megan — January 10, 2007 @ 12:17 pm |Reply

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