Miscellany 24: Light and Dark Thoughts on Language
English pronunciation is enough to drive anyone mad, as this delightful poem will demonstrate in short order. It begins thusly:
Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
Do bookshelves have to be boring? Evidently not, as this delightful collection of shelves demonstrates. Check out the slideshow: I was particularly enamored of the carved-ivy bookshelf (#9 of 12) which has a very Narnian feel to it (and in particular, a Prince Caspian feel).
On the origins of the non-word ‘relatable’: a word that I loathe and despise, and do my best to extirpate from student papers as the disgraceful blot upon the language that it is, because it is so often a substitute for any coherent thought. “Hamlet is very relatable.”
An interesting take on George R.R. Martin as compared to J.R.R. Tolkien. That Martin’s work seems imaginative to many readers is a sorry commentary on the current state of fantasy literature. No, it doesn’t have the third-rate copies of elves and dwarves and magic objects d’art that infest fantasy novels today. However, nothing in his work is original in the larger context of fantasy pre- and post-Tolkien.
The one thing that Martin does that is arguably genuinely new is to introduce explicit sex into the fantasy novel, and to do so with a sadistic and generally degrading approach. I suspect that’s why many readers think he’s great and original. Literature that celebrates faithfulness, modesty, and contentment, and the enjoyment of simple things — stories like Lord of the Rings, which remind us of the joy of marriage, children, friendship, food, and the beauty of nature — this kind of literature carries the stigma of being… well, uncool. On the other hand, darkness is hip; transgressive sexuality is both academically respected and increasingly hip; borderline pornography still carries a little taste of the taboo. What is degenerate is too often now called ‘daring.’
Here’s where the author of this article hits on an excellent insight about Martin:
Lets take the violence for instance – frequently cruel and sadistic in [A Song of Fire and Ice] – the violence is less graphic in Tolkien. Yet curiously Tolkien fought in the battle of the Somme. The closest George Martin (like myself) would have come to battle is through a video game. Tolkien has seen terrible – dehumanising suffering first hand, and like my own grandfather (who fought in Burma) he won’t talk about it. But his work – somehow is redemptive, is noble, it has hope.
Interesting, isn’t it? Tolkien saw violence and death first-hand, and chose not to revel in it. Most people in America have not experienced war or suffered brutality, yet grotesquely violent video games and blood-drenched, perverse-sex-saturated television shows are enormously popular.
This is what we get when Imagination gets disconnected from Reason. Tolkien is great in part because he was utterly grounded in the reality of sorrow and pain, joy and love, and thus his imaginative vision shows forth truth, while lesser writers end up writing ‘Morbid Fantasy’ that speaks no truth and offers no hope.