pedantic words and phrases (an authorial “sin”? I would say, it depends on the author)

 

Another of Gissing’s stylistic quirks — the pedantic term imported from Latin or Greek — appears near the climax of “Too Wretched to Live”*: “As he glanced at the handwriting, a woman’s delicate chirography . … ” From the Greek root kheirographon, that bookish final word intrudes upon a scene of supposedly high emotion. The former classics student from Owens College, Manchester, never lost his taste for ink-horn phrases. To the end of his writing career, he retained a preference for erudite words over plain ones — for visage or physiognomy over simply face. Even in Born in Exile (1892), one of his finest novels, we find a broad sprinkling of learned expressions: “susurration,” “sequaciousness,” “intenerates.” Thus the fancy word chirography in the Daily News story provides further evidence of George Gissing’s authorship.

— Robert L. Selig, “An Unknown Gissing Story from the Chicago Daily News,” Studies in Bibliography, 36 (1983), pp. 208-209.

*An early story by George Gissing, published in the Chicago Daily News  during the period Gissing spent in the United States during the late 1870s.

 

Stylistic peculiarities in “A Game of Hearts” also suggest Gissing’s youthful handiwork. The story’s prose contains the same stilted diction that frequently shows up in his signed early tales: “albeit” as a variant for although, “peradventure” for the noun doubt, “metropolis” for city, the high-flown “missives” for letters, and the pedantic “contained therein” rather than simply in it. Similar pompous usages occur, for example, in Gissing’s early story “My First Rehearsal.” “Be it premised that” for assume that; “the moon, which luminary” for the moon, which; “I doubted not” for I felt sure that; and “a trifle hot for pedestrian exertion” rather than just walking. The stiffly learned style appears to reflect the social unease of the youthful George Gissing–a wish to show off his bookish education and distinguish himself from the unlettered masses.

— Robert L. Selig, George Gissing: Lost Stories from America (Edwin Mellen Press, 1992)

 

– posted by Roger W. Smith

   March 2022

TOO MANY words

 

When asked by a student once, how long should a composition be, my high school English teacher replied: as long as required to cover the subject; no more or less.

 

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The following is an essay about the invasion of Ukraine by Patrick Le Hyaric, a French journalist, politician, member of the European Parliament, and a director of the newspaper L’Humanité.

“Le monde peut basculer dans le pire d’un instant à l’autre”

By Patrick Le Hyaric

Le monde peut basculer dans le pire d’un instant à l’autre

This opinion piece is far too long. The author says far too much. Which is to say, in other words, he tries to say everything he or one can conceivably think about the subject of his essay. Whereby he ends up confusing the reader and not conveying anything clearly, really. His key points — whatever they are — get lost in a muddle.

— posted by Roger W. Smith

    March 1, 2022

new post: inclusive language (mandated by the language police)

 

Please see me post

“This is going too far.”

on my Roger’s Gleanings site

This is going too far.

 

It is about language policing.

— Roger W. Smith

the “man in the street” story

 

Roger’s man in the street paper

‘Holiday Spirit Glimmers as New York Endures Another Pandemic Christmas’ – NY Times 12-24-202`

Maurice Carroll re Oswald – Boston Globe 11-25-1963 (2)

 

In journalism school, we learned how to do a “man in the street” story.

You see them all the time. The reporter randomly interviews people in a city or town about some current issue, development or trend, and/or breaking news. It involves a lot of shoe leather.

I am posting my own “man in the street” story from journalism school here. Note how our instructor, Maurice C. (Mickey) Carroll (a city reporter for New York Newsday), edited my submission, striking out unneeded phrases. I learned a lot from him about how — especially in newspaper writing — to make my writing more concise. I thought I already knew how. He showed by example (with an editor’s magic marker) how more words could be excised from a piece that I thought I had already done the requisite polishing of.

I am also posting here a very good example of a “man in the street” story from last week’s New York Times (“Holiday Spirit Glimmers as New York Endures Another Pandemic Christmas.” December 24, 2021). A lot of reporters were involved in doing the interviews.

I also can’t resist posting here a story I came across that my professor, Carroll, wrote about Lee Harvey Oswald that was published on November 25, 1963 when the former was a young reporter.

 

— posted by Roger. W. Smith

   December 28, 2021

how to say nothing in 1,035 words … generic writing II

 

 

‘Anxiety About Wokeness Is Intellectual Weakness’

 

This is a type of discourse — writing — often seen in pronouncements by educators (e.g. , university presidents), corporate chieftains, CEOs of nonprofits, and (of course) politicians.

With political statements and speeches, it’s obvious. With the rest, it’s more subtle.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

    November 2021

misgendering?

 

 

On October 7, the Author’s Guild, to which I belong, had a Zoom conference; “Finding Your Agent: 7 Steps to a Successful Query Letter.”

I find that such presentations vary in usefulness, but there are usually one or two helpful tips. The conference was well attended. The presenters were two young professional women in the areas of publishing and writing who were articulate and knowledgeable.

Discussing how to write a letter in which one pitches a book, they began by advising: If you have met the editor before — say at a conference or lecture — it is a good idea to mention that you have met before, so as to remind them of you.

Then they said, it’s probably best to begin the letter “Dear Mary,” or “Dear Phil.”

I thought to myself, what? This is good practical advice? When I was about the age of the presenters, and was trying to get a foothold in the publishing industry, or to get hired for freelance work — and when writing letters in general then and even now, as well as emails — my default, if I am not on personal terms with the person I am writing to, is “Dear Mr.” or “Ms.,” “Dear Professor,” and so on. And, of course, beginning with being taught how to write a letter in grade school (is this taught any more?), we were taught the importance and rules of the elements of a letter such as the salutation.

The presenters from last week explained: it’s best to write “Dear Mary” or “Phil” if you don’t know the person. You wouldn’t want to be “caught” misgendering them, they said. They said this with complete assurance, as if we all would know what they were talking about and would agree with this. Heaven forbid we should be so clueless as to not know this.

What is this politically correct world coming to? I thought.

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   November 2021

Can writing really be this bad?

 

 

Theodore Dreiser, ‘Will Fascism Come to America’ – Modern Monthly

 

Theodore Dreiser

“Will Fascism Come to America?”

Modern Monthly 

September 1934

 

1,602 words

1,602 words too long

And what does this screed have to do with or say about the rise of fascism?

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   September 2021

bloated writing

 

For he actually desires not to see a new State erected in America—one that may end capitalistic adventure as we have known it—but the present one so altered in spirit, the so-called “pioneer spirit” in industry—as to cease concerning itself so completely and selfishly and exclusively with the individual’s personal advance—to change in fact into one in which the so-called pioneering individual will see himself as a representative not only of himself but of the country and the people and the national resources of the same, an environment out of which and by the reason of the presence of which it is possible for him to become the successful individual that he does become—if and when he so does become. And that is certainly a very different interpretation of the kind of individual success we need and ought to have if we are going to have for very much longer any such so-called democratic government or nation as our American Constitution calls for. For, according to Bridges—and I quoting him exactly—”when you are anti-labor you are anti-American. For to be anti-labor you have to rob people of the right of free speech, the right to strike, to assemble, to petition and protest, and therefore, you have to be fundamentally unconstitutional and so anti-American.” And having watched the quarrels between capital and labor outside the American newspaper and editorial business for forty-eight years I can heartily agree.

— Theodore Dreiser, “The Story of Harry Bridges,” Friday,  October 11, 1940

 

“Hitler was no good at all at first. …”

 

“Observer; Baseball for Hitler”

By Russell Baker

The New York Times

June 18, 1996

 

Baseball turned its back on Adolf Hitler last week. As the team owners said in a formal statement, “When your business has troubles as bad as ours, who needs to mess around with Der Fuhrer?”

So saying, they persuaded Marge Schott, majority owner of the Cincinnati Reds, to give up control of her business. In a flagrant exercise of the First Amendment, Mrs. Schott had spoken well of the early Hitler.

One sports story reported that she had said “Hitler was good at first.” This sent me to the archives where I discovered that Hitler was no good at all at first, and not at second either.

Rudolf Hess’s memoir says, “The Fuhrer could have been a great shortstop if he hadn’t gone into politics,” but Hess was crazy as a loon when he wrote it.

A more reliable source, Hitler’s masseuse, wrote a book titled, “I Rubbed Hitler the Wrong Way,” which indicates he had very little interest in baseball. “One day while massaging Hitler’s arm,” she wrote, “the Fuhrer seemed in a light-hearted mood, so I ventured to speak to him as follows:

” ‘Do you know, mein Fuhrer, that if you were an American baseball pitcher what your pitching arm would be called by the scribes?’

” ‘Scribes? Scribes?’ he said. ‘Explain scribes to me.’

” ‘They are sportswriters,’ I said.

” ‘So,’ he said, ‘these scribes would call my pitching arm what?’

” ‘They would call it “the old soupbone,” ‘ I said.”

Hitler ended the conversation abruptly, telling the masseuse that when the Wehrmacht occupied America he would like to see a game from the best seat in Camden Yards, but that would have to wait until he finished conquering Russia.

Here is final proof of Hitler’s ignorance of baseball: Camden Yards was not built until 50 years later, and even then he couldn’t have got a decent seat unless he was a corporation. By then, of course, no scribe had called a pitching arm “the old soupbone” for 50 years, and no sportswriter had been called a scribe for 45.

Most of the Nazi leaders were hopelessly ignorant of baseball, as we discover in the Hitler file. Hermann Goring, being the great collector and chief looter in the Nazi hierarchy, apparently wanted a baseball signed by Babe Ruth.

In a note to Hitler the propaganda chief, Joseph Goebbels, wrote that Goring was writing to a woman in enemy America. Impressions in Goring’s desk blotter, said Goebbels, showed that a note had been sent to a New York woman named Babe Ruth.

Totally ignorant of baseball, Goebbels advised Hitler to turn Goring over to the Gestapo and explain his correspondence “with this American Mata Hari.”

Hitler, who was soft on Goring, was “delighted,” he wrote in a note to Eva Braun, to show his “superior knowledge of American culture to Goebbels.”

“I told him that Babe Ruth was the name of an American candy and that Hermann, who has a sweet tooth, was probably ordering some from New York,” Hitler wrote.

We now know, of course, what Goring was really up to. His gardener’s memoir, “Down the Primrose Path With Goring,” reports that he was often ordered to stand in a hay field for hours chasing fly balls Goring hit off a fungo bat. The gardener writes:

“He once said to me that Hermann Goring was not much more corpulent than the greatest batter in history. ‘What’s more,’ said Goring, ‘both of us are named Hermann.’

“I didn’t know then that Herman was only the second name of the famous Ruth and that it had only one ‘n,’ while Goring’s was his first name and had two ‘n’s.’ ”

Goring apparently hoped to meet Babe Ruth once the Wehrmacht occupied New York and to impress the Yankee slugger by smacking a few batting-practice pitches out of the park. Babe Ruth, he hoped, would be impressed enough to sign a baseball, thus making it unnecessary to loot the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The baseball owners’ distaste for Hitler reminds us that baseball and Adolf once had something in common. Hitler became furious because a black American sprinter, Jesse Owens, beat the flower of Aryan athletics in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Such an embarrassment could not have happened that year to major league baseball owners. They simply didn’t let blacks play.

 

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Absolute genius (on Russell Baker’s part).

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   March 2021