Tag Archives: Language

Small Stone for 8 August, 2021

it is necessary to stand on a hill at a small hour of the night, and, . . . long and quietly watch your stately progress through the stars.

― Thomas Hardy, Far From the Madding Crowd

“Long and quietly” what a gem of a phrase.

Yesterday was a hustle-bustle kind of a day spent among the good ole boys who didn’t so much leave the farm of 40 years ago as carry it with them in their back pockets, the under-educated over-media’ed under 30’s who talk with their thumbs, the children of people from other languages and cultures who learned their English from TV. This city is knee deep in the multicultural flotsam and jetsam of a small town that grew up into a big city when nobody was looking. I wear my waders and walk carefully.

Sometimes, I need to take a moment and remind myself that the language I hear mispronounced and misgrammared on a daily basis is only two steps away from the language of Shakespeare, the King James Bible, and the Declaration of Independence. Every time I hear the “r” left out of “throw,” a question “axed”, grammar that has been run through the sausage grinder of heedlessness and ignorance, or an innocent idiom Malaprop-ed into absurdity, I try to remind myself of Churchill’s majestic cathedrals of language, the neat-as-a-pin prose of Austen, the apt and agile Shakespearean turn of phrase, the language of the Gettysburg address that is as lean, laconic and full of pith as the man who penned it.

Pardon. I was having a Henry Higgins moment there for a minute. I’ll be better directly. But, you know what? Right this now, my idea of Heaven would be an afternoon spent with the likes of Stephen Fry, in a setting of easy chairs, beverages of choice and plates of small delectables, engaging long and quietly in conversation comme il faut without having to worry about using “big words” or “fancy words,” when I spoke. Perhaps we would be seated in a garden gazebo . . .