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Posts Tagged ‘Language’

a-lovers-discourse

In honor of the Hallmark holiday, I’ve decided to recommend one of my favorite reads about love: A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments, by Roland Barthes, translated from French into English by Richard Howard. As the title suggests, the topic is the language used by one in love.

Description on Amazon:

“Barthes’s most popular and unusual performance as a writer is A Lover’s Discourse, a writing out of the discourse of love. This language—primarily the complaints and reflections of the lover when alone, not exchanges of a lover with his or her partner—is unfashionable. Thought it is spoken by millions of people, diffused in our popular romances and television programs as well as in serious literature, there is no institution that explores, maintains, modifies, judges, repeats, and otherwise assumes responsibility for this discourse . . . Writing out the figures of a neglected discourse, Barthes surprises us in A Lover’s Discourse by making love, in its most absurd and sentimental forms, an object of interest.”—Jonathan Culler

I definitely would not say it is an easy read, but it is a fascinating one, one that will having you thinking time and again “Yes! That’s how it is — just like that,” feeling both the thrill of being understood and the disappointment of finding oneself unoriginal precisely in the way we feel most unique and special — how we are in love.

Barthes just nails it so well — here are a few examples from the fragments:

“As a jealous man, I suffer four times over: because I am jealous, because I blame myself for being so, because I fear that my jealousy will wound the other, because I allow myself to be subject to a banality: I suffer from being excluded, from being aggressive, from being crazy, and from being common.”

“‘Am I in love? –Yes, since I’m waiting.’ The other never waits. Sometimes I want to play the part of the one who doesn’t wait; I try to busy myself elsewhere, to arrive late; but I always lose at this game: whatever I do, I find myself there, with nothing to do, punctual, even ahead of time. The lover’s fatal identity is precisely: I am the one who waits.

“Despite the difficulties of my story, despite discomforts, doubts, despairs, despite impulses to be done with it, I unceasingly affirm love, within myself, as a value. Though I listen to all the arguments which the most divergent systems employ to demystify, to limit, to erase, in short to depreciate love, I persist: “I know, I know, but all the same…” I refer the devaluations of a lover to a kind of obscurantist ethic, to a let’s-pretend realism, against which I erect the realism of value: I counter whatever “doesn’t work” in love with the affirmation of what is worthwhile.”

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calendarThis year for Christmas I got a  “Forgotten English” day calendar by Jeffrey Kacirk, which is filled with antiquated English words and phrases. Being such a dork about words and language, I’m obviously lovin’ it.

Five of my favorites:

Pure Quill: A strange synonym for “the real thing,” the very essence of an argument. Also applied to any subject thought worthy of superlative praise. – John Farmer’s Americanisms Old and New, 1889.

Holy-cruel: Cruel by being too virtuous. – John Phin’s  Shakespeare Cyclopaedia and New Glossary, 1902

Flire: To laugh, or rather to have a countenance expressive of laughter, without laughing out. From Icelandic flyra. — John Brockett’s Glossary of North Country Words, 1825

Culch: Great quantity of rain. – Jabez Good’s Glossary of East Lincolnshire, 1900

Unkard: A person in a strange place with which he is unacquainted is said to be unkard. The word, when applied to a place, means lonely. -F.T. Dinsdale’s Glossary of Provincial Words Used in Teesdale in the County of Durham, 1849


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The proof is not in the pudding

Sorry, but if you’ve ever used that phrase you’ve got it all wrong — the real saying is “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” I guess guilty parties can take small consolation in the fact that they’re not alone. The phrase gets botched all the time — I even noticed it on a WordPress help page today (http://wordpress.com/vip-hosting/). Read more about the phrase and it’s misuse in a Herald Tribune article.

Let’s hope this phrase doesn’t follow the same path as “begging the question,” another phrase so universally misused that the misuse is now acceptable and even in the dictionary. Hint: the original meaning does not mean “raising the question.”

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