Words that tear and strain to rhyme.

Only yesterday, while struggling to express an impression I had of William Faulkner’s work to my favorite oldest brother, I remarked in some frustration that “I should just blog about it, because I won’t know what I think until I do.”

This morning, courtesy of MR, I found an article about just that.

I wish I blogged more often, because it is always such a relief to me to be able to say fully what I mean; something I rarely manage in person. In conversation, I find myself grasping for the correct words. I say “blanket” when “duvet” would better suit my purposes. Or I mis-speak, and use the wrong word in such a comical manner, that I feel like Amy from “Little Women,” showing off vocabulary words I haven’t properly learned. I don’t know w hen to stop talking. I ramble. I start saying something, and realize its irrelevance part way through, when it has already become too late to turn back. Sometimes, half way through saying something, I see by someone’s expression that I am boring them to tears. In short, I often feel very stupid.

Perhaps I am not really as awkward when I talk as I feel myself to be, or (very probably) I am only awkward under certain circumstanes. (I find I am very elloquent in the car.) But I am probably at my best when I write. Talking, I make mistakes. I am a mere mortal. Writing, even when I have to delete and re-write whole paragraphs, and even when the idea I am attempting to convey is flawed, I come much closer to expressing it properly.

As Mr. Krystal (of the above-linked article) says, “…There seems to be a rhythm to writing that catches notes that ordinarily stay out of earshot. At some point between formulating a thought and writing it down falls a nanosecond when the thought becomes a sentence that would, in all likelihood, have a different shape if we were to speak it.”

Exactly so.

5 thoughts on “Words that tear and strain to rhyme.

  1. 1. Well said.
    2. Let's put a positive spin on your struggles. My general insensitivity and assholeishness send a signal that provides powerful incentives for correcting flaws in your ability to converse. See! I'm doing you a favor. =P
    3. I've just started reading a book by Tyler Cowen (Create Your Own Economy) that is focused on what he calls the “autistic cognitive style.” He's basically looking at the cognitive strengths of the autistic and exploring how they apply to problems in real life. Your post (specifically your frustrating with talking as opposed to writing) is similar to the types of things he's talking about. I think you might really enjoy it.
    4. I am scared that you talk better while driving. Focus on road, plx.
    5. No one really cares about the difference between a “duvet” and a “blanket” in casual conversation.


  2. 1. Thank you.
    2. Just you wait, Henry Higgins.
    3. I will look forward to it.
    4. My theory is that the focus I place on the road distracts me just enough from what I am saying to allow me to talk without over-choosing my language. The same happens if I have a beer or a glass of wine before I sit down to write. My lowered inhibitions seem to lend my writing a grace and freedom which comes from not allowing oneself to be hung up overlong on tiny details. Grammar is often one of these tiny details; I once blitzed through several pages of writing one night in Germany, only to discover the next morning that I had more than once changed verb tenses mid-sentence. The writing was still, overall, pretty good.
    5. I think they mind when, in order to make my point, I end up relying on discarded tea back wrappers to make my point. Ask Donal about this.


  3. I definitely know the feeling. There's something about writing that, for someone who's used to it, can tap into a portion of the subconscious and pull up connections that might never have been thought of during a conversation.

    I quite enjoyed the article, by the way.


  4. I'm sure my American wife (my only wife, as it happens LOL) uses “blanket” for “duvet” on occasions but I didn't think you had duvets in America, just comforters? Maybe that's just in hot states?


  5. Peter: Actually, “duvet” was in direct reference to a story I had been telling some friends of mine about my first night in Germany. My German mother had laid a duvet on my bed folded in half and turned sideways. I as so tired from jet lag that I didn't know what to do with it, so I slept in it as it was with my feet sticking out the end. It was very stupid, and I think Andrea and Markus still laugh over my mistake.

    Germans always complained to me about Americans and their sheets, and how they always got tangled up in them, but I'm so used to cocooning myself in them that I had a hard time staying warm during the winter in the duvet, in spite of its thickness.


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