It is a rare occasion when I agree wholeheartedly with a Townhall author, but I must confess, this piece by Bill Murchison really made me think. Specifically, it made me think, “the reason I rarely agree with Townhall authors is that they are idiots.”
Murchison has written an article about how he prefers good writing to bad writing. He starts this article with a first sentence that he seems quite proud of, something Classic along the lines of “Call me Ishmael” or similar. Unfortunately it reads rather more like “Ishmael is the call-me I go by, old bean!” Or something:
Can’t stand to watch the English language’s losing encounter with the culture of who-cares-anyway?
To which the most common answer would probably be, “what the hell does that mean?” A more sensible answer would be, “fuck you and stop bothering me,” because that would not encourage Murchison to explain himself. Which he does, painfully and at length. His point, such as it is, is that he disagrees with a professor who wrote a book arguing that, in his paraphrase, “English, like a turbulent stream, is dynamic: always refreshing itself with new modes and models and images.” He takes exception.
So what about all this, then? Has Lynch got us dogmatic dinosaurs dead to rights? Not quite, I think. English is dynamic. Still, we can’t let the matter drop just there. The notion of language as a bulletin board for faddists needs no new friends. I fear it has too many already.
Dear Lord, someone gave Dr. Smith a Townhall column. This is a bubbling brew of barbarous bullshit, a craptastic collection of vertiginous verbiage!
The relationship between reader and writer is a delicate one, demanding trade-offs. Very well. If we are to talk via the printed page or glassy screen, let’s be sure some rules obtain: some sense of where a sentence, once started, should end, and how much of the reader’s patience it should tax. Not that here we have the entirety of the thing. What about the writer — his artistry when it comes to narration, his gift for painting with words, for evoking images? Can’t he — may it please the court — have a little fun when he talks? How much fun, though? And with what profit, or danger, to his argument?
And here you have the problem with conservatives who think they’re smart, in a nut, hold the shell. They tend to imagine that stuff like labored and belabored alliteration sounds all classy and shit, when instead, it simply sucks syphilitic sack and makes them come across like a total douche to anyone who actually understands how the language works.
To be fair, though, this is an excellent point: “Words of a single syllable, carefully aimed, can travel like bullets.” Indeed.