Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Expatriates from Reality


A student you are by most accounts fond of because of her insightful classroom commentary causes you more than a little consternation when she raises a hand to get your attention.  Her crime is the Guiness Book of Records trophy for the number of times in one class she will say “You know,” as a reflexive interjection.  There have been times when you began ticking off the number of times she has said “You know” in a particular session, so extensive is her performance.  You find yourself using that trope from time to time, causing you to cringe before you think of her.

There are times, particularly in conversation, when you find the word “that” about to escape from your tongue.  As a result, there are times when you have drawn blood, having bitten your tongue.

A number of your students have the verbal need to say “I mean” when engaged in a longish discourse.  For your part, you find yourself unnecessarily prefacing sentences with “So,” probably a substitute for, “So, you see—“ and one of your most frequent edits from your written language, your emphatic disregard for –ly adverbs to the contrary notwithstanding is the adverb “accordingly,” which may or may not be a substitute for the previously defined culprit, “so,” which may also be a substitute for, “so, you see—“

A great friend of yours is fond of saying, “I think you’ve put your finger on it,” whenever you make some judgmental or sententious statement.

You sometimes trawl and prowl through clients’ and students’ papers, rooting out superfluous “and” use in a way you imagine a truffle hound unearths a truffle.  Thus alerted to the common overuse of “and” you attack your own manuscripts as though they were a demonstration from rebellious students, shifting word order, making more or fewer sentences, recasting, in other words, an entire progression of thought.

One person you know quite well often punctuates sentences with “You know what I mean?”  Yet another is wont to add, “Know what I’m saying?”

Your references are to spoken and written habit words, extra flourishes added as though they were the thirteenth donut in a baker’s dozen or, better still, the florist’s dozen, often in your experience the thirteenth daffodil in a bunch you intend for the ledge of the cabinet directly behind you as you type this.  Habit words are less objectionable in spoken language than written—until they become so excruciating in their repetition that you feel as though you have been sat upon by some large, bulky beast that has only just returned from a long run.

Such words are a marriage of the thought process, the desire to communicate, and the run-of-the-mill conversational technique, all predicated on being a member of the homo sapiens club, you know what I mean?

When you speak of fluid, beguiling written narrative being conversational in tone, you are in actuality being ironic without intending the irony.  You want the narrative to sound like conversation without being so, for all the previously illustrated reasons, thus you want evocation or, if you will, nuance.

Description is necessary, but only up to a point.  You describe something in the briefest terms possible before moving on to showing the material in action.  For you, it is the suggestion rather than the overt.

Over the years, you have worked to get the tics out of your spoken and written speech, knowing the relative difficulty in capturing it all.  As you wrote in yesterday’s blog entry, you were expressing a preference for time spent in the fictional or narrative landscape of your own choice and invention, which includes reading.  You cannot, of course, move completely away from reality, cannot become an expatriate from reality, more so the case if you see yourself with numerous writing projects down the line, beckoning you into their territories the way the Sirens beckoned and sang to Odysseus’ mariners with such captivating lyrics and melody.

There will be tics in your speech and narrative, thus inside reality and out of it.  The tic is a part of you; you are a host.  Know what I’m saying?


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