You Got Style
· Pointed Takes on Style Delineated ·
March 28, 2004
· Unto This Last ·
"What do you mean?" Well, at term's end, I count down the days remaining in my classes always like this from fancy to plain:
I'm glad today to say I'm nearing "This Last."Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
March 21, 2004
· On Figuring Tropical Turns ·
I say this since my own traipsings — back and forth on my lawn prompted by our rising sun — do seem themselves like the sun's turnings back and forth between the fabled Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Reflecting mediately on the matter, but not quite exactly, inclines me like the old sun today — really from a precession of our orbiting earth — to take account of where I am.
And where is that, pray tell? Well, mostly traipsing back and forth and forth and back in recurring patterns known, quite rightly in our langauge, by one of three common phrases from Greek, Latin, and English,
The only trouble I'm having — besides the literal fact that my machine gave up the ghost today — is what to do with the residual matter of compos(t)ing my grass clippings.Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
March 14, 2004
· Twain, James, Mencken, and the Colloquial Style ·
Since I have abused Mencken's prose — in Conservative Soul Substance: H. L. Mencken on Style — I've thought to modify my claim by noting here (quite plainly in the interest of fairness) that Mencken might also have chosen as his secondary model Henry James.
Now don't get me wrong; I understand that Mencken once sneered at James's writing:
Of course, since I too have scoffed at Jamesian style — in Indirection in the King's Road: Edith Wharton on Henry James — I thought maybe to split the difference by also claiming that James's work no less than Twain's was indeed itself "colloquial" — an odd claim, but defensible.
My clue comes from chapter three of Richard Bridgman's book, The Colloquial Style in America (1966), "Henry James and Mark Twain." Bridgman rightly defends the view that, in its dialogue at least, James's prose shines with stresses, repetitions, and fragmentations commonly characteristic of American colloquial speech. The difference between Twain and James, of course, remains Twain's substantive reference to things, and Henry James's to consciousness, but stylistically, as Bridgman himself notes,
It is perhaps interesting to claim that H. L. Mencken, author of The American Language (1921), might himself have been merely half-inspired. For as Teachout himself admits (p. 75), "Mencken's inability to find anything but hot air in Henry James indicates the limits of his education as exactly as it does the breadth of his ambition."
But again, as hinted above, Mencken didn't really care for the cool, airy reflections of "bucolic college professors."Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
March 4, 2004
· Write, Right, Wright, Rite ·
"Write, Right, Wright, Rite," I tell them. They get a kick, of course, out of my injunction since I can pose as a sadly repeating, redundant, reverberating punster. Whenever they all get around to asking what I mean, I simply say, "Check out my definitions":
Here I'll make my way straight to my principal point, which, if you think about it, is but the plain styling of a single sentence: Do Correct Work Religiously.
Naturally, the full conversion of all workers to the work is at times difficult, though they do take to it when (with Jonathan Swift) they maybe see its sharp point: "proper words in proper places."
I should perhaps let you decide what our busy bee ("at right") is doing.Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
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Unto This Last
On Figuring Tropical Turns
Twain, James, Mencken, and the Colloquial Style
Write, Right, Wright, Rite
Figures & Tropes
Grammar & Syntax