Saturday, May 12, 2012

Pleonasm


Much as you try to hide the fact, there is an unsettling presence of the bombast and pleonastic squatting in the midst of your narrative landscape as though a participant in an Occupy strategy.

In a similar manner to your immigration policies as they relate to other undocumented aliens, you do not organize raids, border closings, or deportations.  Rather, you have come to rely upon editing—your own of self, and others of you—as the equivalent of enlightened border guards.  There was an editor you much admired who was willing to allow you to use the adjectival “inherent,” which she said was in common, conventional usage.

The editor balked, however, at your use of the verbal form, “inhere,” growing even more—dare you say it—obdurate? when you pointed out its origin, the Latin inhaerÄ“re, as stick to or stay to, and after all, weren’t we looking for vivid verbs?  You even supposed she’d get her dander up were you to use the verb “cohere,” and the door was left ajar when you speculated she’d pass on intrinsic but ask for a synonym were you to use extrinsic.  A pattern was beginning to emerge.

See:  Your vocabulary at work for you.  Bombast.  Pleonasm.  Tsouris with editors.  As your late pal, Gary Boren, was wont to philosophize, “Tsouris beliden.”  Trouble aboundeth (your translation.)

Another editor you admire suggested to you that David needed only a rock and the simplest of weapons to dispatch Goliath, and you had any number of simpler-words-as-rocks at hand.  Nor were you seen to be in combat with anything so formidable as Goliath.

So, you asked, thinking to be rhetorical, you’re thinking shooting fish in a barrel when it comes to my prose?  The moment the statement was out, you saw you’d, well, shot yourself in the foot.

Yes, she said.

You have to admit the sad truth of the observation.  Although you do not chose to win arguments by dint of drum rolls and lectern thumping, in fact wanting more to converse than argue, you are in fact given to the drum roll, and many a lectern has made its way back to the repair shop because of your use of emphatic gestures, lavish, but no less sincere sweeps of one or both arms, resulting in more glasses of red wine spilled on more carpets, thanks to the extravagance of your waves.

Some of this is, at root, cultural.  An early procession of girlfriends used such vocabulary as phlegmatic, diffident, and non-committal when discussing—all right, complaining about your attitudes, and your mother from time to time observed how inward you tended to be unless discussing music or literature or food.

However difficult it is for you to pinpoint the equivalent moment of Big Bang in your outward expressiveness, you recall with some vividness a time when you were being prepared by an attorney for an appearance before the grand jury of Hamilton County, Ohio, of which Cincinnati is the county seat.  “You must remember at all times that you are given to emotive behavior.”

“A nice way,” you replied, “of saying I am a ham actor.”

“Yes,” he said.  “Much of a ham.”

Yin and yang.

Warring extremes.  The stoic and the bombast.

The fulcrum is a longstanding enthusiasm, roused the same way a bored dog in a yard is alert to the footsteps of a passerby.

Words you have cached in memory from a long relationship with crossword puzzles come spewing forth at odd moments, even in conversations where, having given voice to a word such as, say, preternatural, will in effect call conversation to a screeching halt.

We all of us—you believe—have at least two argumentative factions within, railing in continuous debate, the actual causes of the debate adumbrated, or should you be content to say overshadowed or, better yet, forgotten?  You’d be happy were there only two competing factors; your inner landscape is more like an Italian parliament or fraternity food fight than the conversational hum and purr you like to imagine having transpired at such salons as Bloomsbury.

You are stuck with the prospect of spilling your wine on a reader.  The best you can do is hope for a good pinot.  Vintage is everything these days.



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