You Got Style
· Pointed Takes on Style Delineated ·
May 13, 2003
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· The A & P of Style: Location, Location, Location ·
In a way, if you think about it, so is style's. Adjusted to the real estate of sentences, the old slogan of "Location, Location, Location" nicely fits. After all, Jonathan Swift once defined style as "proper words in proper places," and the coordinating axes of grammar, rhetoric, and logic triply apply. Here, we might say, the larger "A & P" of style finds its proper dwelling, though I wouldn't want to get very Heideggerian about it — tomographically, geographically, or topologically.
Which is why I thought today to share a brief passage from the Scot Hugh Blair. You may recall him as the author of Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Letters (1783). Skilled in the craft of exacting stylistic analysis, Blair took special interest — in Lectures XX through XXIII — in the work of Joseph Addison. As I've already noted Addison, I thought today to focus on the last paragraph of Lecture XX, wherein Blair happily marks a contrast between Addison's two fine concluding sentences and a poorly-styled alternative. It's clearly a matter of location.
Noting Spectator #411, Blair observes Addison's happy ending:
Then adding his analysis, Blair continues:
Which helps me now to the ever-trivial moral of my story: to wit, that if you ever find yourself in the "wrong place," well, Move, Unclog Those Arteries, and, of course — if possible — Get Some Style.Permalink
"Get some style," says the redoubtable Styles. But, isn't style a matter of taste? What's stylish to you may not be to me, and vice versa. What, exactly, do you mean by that suggestion?
I doubt I can answer your question exactly; I'm afraid I'm just not Swift enough.
But you might see Sister Miriam Joseph's fine distinction in The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric, between "categorematic" and "syncategorematic" words (p. 47 ff.). In defining with them "Rules for Substituting Equivalent Symbols," she explains how formal verbal equivalency "makes possible a variety of styles within the same language and provides means to improve style" (p. 72).
I'm sorry I can't be more specific, but I hope you might at least like the redoubtable Sister Miriam's "savoir-faire."
I could not complete the "URL" because I don't know what to put in that square. I am practically computer illiterate, so please bear with me. This is a very interesting site and I look forward to exploring it further.
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