Discussion in 'Education & Personal Growth' started by Ansuya, Dec 20, 2008.
It looks like I neither mastered English nor understood Grammarly well. So comforting!!!
Well. It may be the end times, so perhaps I should return to form one last time and complain about certain hackneyed cliches, over-used, unimaginative phrases, and tired, uninspiring, MBA-speak jargon that tends to pervade our language, especially when things reach a fever pitch as they have. This way, if the corona gets me, Satan may take notice of how pretentious and overly-sensitive I am, and deem me not cool enough for his fiery pits.
"the new normal" - I had been dimly aware of this phrase for a while. Then came a ill-fated and short-lived 2012 NBC sitcom called "The New Normal", and suddenly, everyone seemed to latch onto this phrase and use it for everything. Of course, now it's really being used for EVERYTHING, given our straitened circumstances.
"pivot" - I'm not sure how or where this started, but it has infected otherwise healthy texts and reduced them to shadows of their former selves, gasping for air, close to death, and in need of intubation. So, instead of saying, "let's change course" or "we need to re-focus", people are now saying "pivot". Just stop it. Unless you're describing a dog's ears or a pirouette.
In principle, I'm against the forwarding of memes, videos, articles, and other internet jetsam and flotsam, unless they are outstandingly funny or superlatively clever. The following two items qualify:
In this short video, ex-NASA engineer Mark Rober does an EXCELLENT job of explaining how viruses spread by using a school and glow powder. This is a perfect starting point for a discussion with your children (or anyone's children, but ask permission first, lest you be accused of nefarious intentions) about why we are harping on about hand-washing and prohibiting face-touching. I daresay I know a few adults in my life who could benefit from this knowledge too. This video would be a great foundation for a homeschool science lesson as well. I found his metaphor for points of entry for the virus (equating the vulnerable thermal exhaust port of the Death Star to eyes, nose, and mouth on the head) to be educational magic - only a genius would think of such an accurate and relevant way to explain this concept to children. The answer to gloom, doom, and fear-mongering is facts and education. So if anyone is feeling anxious or out-of-control about the virus, empower them with this video.
2. Once coronavirus infects a human body, what happens next?
My very most favourite magazine in the world is (the British edition of) The Week. This article is a fine explanation of exactly how the coronavirus works. It is particularly readable and worth passing on because it is so accessible to the layman. It is written in simple, effective language that manages to be factual and not in the least bit sensational, even when describing the more horrifying aspects of this disease. I wish we had more news and information like this, which we could read, easily understand, digest, and so educate ourselves, especially as parents. We have a huge responsibility to our children to explain fearful events calmly, honestly, and with some authority.
Whew. This used to be easier when I was younger.
No need to get too pearl-clutchy about how/what we use, so long as critical things continue to happen. FT's Lucy K... in podcast from a few years ago:
Abuse of language keeps going forward
Welcome back ol' friend! It must be the end times if you've decided to revisit the old haunt!
Oh, but I must. I did say I was pretentious AND overly-sensitive (clutches double strand of the finest Akoya pearls presented to me by the Emperor of Japan)
Yes! And if the apocalypse fails to materialize as promised, I'm sure I'm going to regret this in the morning... people like you make me glad to be back, though
What a pleasant surprise! Finally, it took the Coronavirus to get you back into what used to be your favorite place. A hearty welcome and I sincerely hope you would continue to write here.
Serendipity! Organizing the study today came across "Melissa and Doug" container and "a dangerous book for boys" after years suddenly and that brought a smile as I ran my fingers over them and thought of someone fondly! Absolute truth!
There you are in all that you have written! So end of the world or not, happy to see you and welcome back Ansuya!
I feel like The Rider on a White Horse...
Thank you, Srama and Viswamitra. It is awfully good to see you both here. Thank you for keeping this thread alive.
When I started this thread, I meant to discuss the mechanics of the English language, but that is probably the least interesting thing about language, so it was not my entire focus. Language is also, and most importantly for me, beauty and art. This means automatic repetition and mindless mimicry is stylistically unappealing. Yes, we use language to get things done, but that is a matter of utility, and in certain contexts, what is function without form?
So, if you were writing a technical manual or IKEA furniture assembly instructions, repetition and precise, sparse language would be appropriate. We can't apply the same formula to writing for human beings to read for enjoyment or elucidation of non-clinical topics.
There was a time when reading the newspaper or a magazine was enjoyable as well as informative. This was a long time ago, when I was a youngster and dinosaurs roamed the earth. Now, everyone is a journalist, as long as they have a computer and an internet connection. Their grasp of the language, no matter how tenuous, seems to be irrelevant.
There is much talk about how the media has become an echo chamber for groups isolated from each other (FOX for conservatives, MSNBC for liberals, and so on). We must be careful not to let the same thing happen to language. I want to read articles that fizz and sparkle with new turns of phrase, which poke at dormant areas of my aging brain, and present me with news ideas expressed in novel ways, preferably with a liberal dash of good humour and humility.
So, every time I start to read something now, inevitably about the novel coronavirus, as soon as I see "uncharted waters", "unprecedented", "massive surge" and so on, I tend to nod off. This is writing for the sake of writing, because one has been given a brief to churn out 500 words on behalf of some organization or the other.
And we are being bombarded by such messages, sometimes in the form of thinly-disguised marketing emails that seek to capitalize on the pandemic and keep brands, products, and services uppermost in the minds of consumers. This, despite the fact that people are dying, and we are all going through our own unique version of hell on earth (or maybe that's just me, cut off from my favourite restaurants and grocery stores).
Cliche has its place, and I am not averse to a good, snappy "snatching victory from the jaws of defeat" or "a day late and a dollar short", used appropriately to illustrate a point, in place of a paragraph of explanation. But when a writer strings cliches together instead of giving thought to and creating actual, original ideas and sentences, it's insulting to the reader.
Let's hope life goes back to normal soon, if only just to save innocent ILites from my rants.
I am so happy to see your free-flowing writing style again after a long time. I had a chance to read a book written by Kavita Kane titled, "Karna's wife the outcast's queen" last year. I thought I should mention this to you. I am sure you would enjoy Kavita's style of narrating an environment, thoughts that run in the mind of various characters, and reactions of various characters more than the conversations in the book.
Retelling of mythology is challenging in any language because the vocabulary must be quaint, with no incursion of modern-sounding words, must also be evocative of those times, with no verbal misfits, such delicacy to be deftly handled. Indian retelling in English language entails additional hardship because even the language is not native to the setting.
Pat Barker (ref: The Silence of the Girls) and Madeline Miller (ref: Circe) are well-accepted by literary critics in such undertakings of Greek stylizations.
But if you fancy to get critical, in comparison, Miller edges in word-perfect prose, striking in exacting imagery like the wordplay in "crafty like a spike-toothed eel" weaponized in the language told from the viewpoint of a water nymph. Sensitivity to time, place and character's natural tongue is more evidenced in Miller's writing.
Similarly, on Indian turf, I have admiration for Kavita Kane and Chitra Divakaruni, who have championed the feminist imaginings of Indian mythology. In their narratives, though the sentiment in the language is only set off in time, the vocabulary jumps onto another tongue, altogether, here English language.
Such writing could be thoughtless, awkward, if not done properly. Though I enjoy Kavita Kane's writing, I am slightly more favourable towards Chitra Divakaruni for her finesse in representing Indian themes in English vernacular just like Miller's elegant choice of words.
Yes, Kavita Kane takes that art of inner dialogue to a descriptively woven level.
Both Kavita and Chitra demonstrate that stream of consciousness in the ricocheted turmoil of their lead characters, bouncing off interpretations in the speculated facts of the attending characters.