I honestly can’t remember my ever once having used a word whose meaning I didn’t know. My problem is often with pronunciation. I’ve been known to mispronounce everything from nomenclature to Manichean. It appears that my track record has always been quite good with the spoken and written word. As far as I can tell, I can attribute that to the simple fact that I don’t ever presume to take any unnecessarily brave risks with language. I always take great care first to see to it that I find out exactly what a word means and only then do I use it. For as long as I can remember I’ve always been determined to be as articulate as possible. That’s why I always try to master a word quite thoroughly before I try it on other people. Most certainly even I must have made the occasional small error or two over the precise distinction between things like knockwurst and bratwurst, or something equivalent, but that’s about all. When we were kids in our teens my cousin Gary kept reminding me that the word “laminated” meant “covered with plastic”. It turned out that he was right but I could never be quite sure he wasn’t trying perhaps to pull a fast one on me. Life in the early twenty first century is filled with new words, some not even good enough to be worth bothering with, for me to have to get to know. We now live in the land of bling, wii and wi fi. I try to avoid bothering with those kinds of things. Unfortunately though we’re stuck with them. I shall take my time attempting to figure them out.
Ever since I’ve been reading and writing blogs, especially since I’ve been writing regular blog entries on WordPress, I’ve been noticing that my entries always tend to be quite significantly shorter than those of so many other people. I happen to think that’s an exceptionally good thing, assuming I can write well. It’s very important for one to make his point as succinctly as possible. Unfortunately when I talk, unless I’m extremely careful, I always tend to be quite long winded. Conveniently I can tell by the way someone reacts to things I say that he’s not happy with my going overboard in my speech. When that happens I can conveniently take advantage of whatever unfavorable body language I notice and try to keep things short from then on. The best thing about writing is that a writer has the luxury of being capable of streamlining and proofreading in advance. In normal everyday speech, though, all the sloppiness and excess is there for everyone to notice. Because of my penchant for brief blog entries, I’ve even deliberately tried to lengthen them a bit, but it’s very difficult for me to come up with a lot to say in any one blog.
These days I’m staying with Mary Anne, Steve and the kids anyway. Since I don’t know all their friends I should most certainly take for granted that at least the occasional terribly silly misunderstanding or two is bound to transpire sooner or later. That’s why I wasn’t even the least bit surprised, one Saturday a few weeks ago, when I walked into the house, after a trip to the Coffee Nut Cafe, only to be confronted by quite the pleasant looking middle aged couple who introduced themselves as Fred and Sylvia. Fred and Sylvia were sitting casually upon the living room couch eating such a delicious looking chocolate cake with raspberries on top of it. They were dressed casually and hardly seemed to be as tough as they turned out to be.
“Hey, I beg your pardon bucko but we hear you’re always presuming to correct people’s grammar!”, shouted Fred. “Is that true, may I ask?!” Sylvia stared at me quite sternly. “Listen, hot shot,” she exclaimed. “Maybe where you come from people enjoy being ridiculed by the likes of some neurotic creep but we’ve been sent here to put a stop to it! Do you hear me?!” For seconds I stammered helplessly as I tried to figure out how to explain why I do this seemingly terrible thing. Over the course of the next few hours they alternated between eating their cake and terrorizing me. All I could think of was how horrifying this all was. After a while Fred went over to the kitchen and made us a nice pot of hot coffee. “Well,” I thought, “at least they’re sociable.” During the time they continuously berated me it occurred to me, “O so that’s why I was such an outcast among the other kids when I was young!” Throughout the haranguing I was subjected to, I got a chance to think of how nasty I’ve always been. I asked to excuse myself for a minute so I could go outside and get the mail.
When I returned Fred and Sylvia were both gone. They taught me a lesson I shall never forget. Proper grammar and elocution are so very important but nobody likes a scooch.
I believe that staunch strict Catholic orthodoxy is the right way to go. Even from a secular point of view it’s the only worldview that’s entirely in cahoots with the way human nature really works. Logical consistency and simple common decency are at their very best from a specifically Catholic perspective. It’s most certainly no accident that so many passages from both the Bible and the collected works of William Shakespeare have found their way into our everyday language.
I believe in being as articulate as possible. These days, in our era of inclusive and otherwise ideologically inclined language, it’s so overwhelmingly easy for people to deceive and to be deceived. I believe that one should, at all time, both say exactly what he means and mean exactly what he says. Mankind was meant to take advantage of language, and symbolism in general, precisely at the service of the truth, not of some demented self serving agenda.
I believe that although for someone to live in his past is seriously dysfunctional, visiting it frequently is important to the point of being unavoidably necessary. We need history teachers and story tellers to keep the world moving legitimately forward. History is like language. It should be be restricted to only a rightly ordered version of it. He who can control a people’s past is he who can control their future.
I don’t believe:
I don’t believe in common sense. This seems odd precisely because so many people have always invoked common sense as if it were the singular most important thing in the entire known universe. That’s exactly my entire point though. Although G.K. Chesterton, the Apostle of Common Sense, appears to have been on the right track, in its everyday usage, the term seems always to be invoked by people who want to ride shotgun over other people’s entire lives. It’s a kind of Promethean pride in disguise.
I don’t believe in tolerance or open mindedness for the same reason I don’t believe in common sense. I find people who profess to possess this quality to be supremely defiantly arrogant. I agree with Chesterton’s claim that a mind is like a mouth. Each of us should open his mouth , while talking, only long enough to make his point. After that he makes a complete fool out of himself. Each of us should also open his mouth, while eating, only long enough to put his food into it. After that he presents a most repugnant site to others. Being open minded presents us with exactly the same problem. It’s quite a nasty way of overdoing something that’s only good up to a certain point.
I don’t believe that everything that’s possible is permissible. This should be quite self evident but these days we’re living in a culture in which entirely too many people believe that they may do as they please simply because they can. My entire proof of exactly how evil this is consists in a mere reminder of the simple fact that the people who fight the hardest in order to maintain these supposed absolute freedoms always want to control people entirely. They only want us to do precisely those things that meet with their approval.