Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Miracle of Language, the Cage of Words

I've been having recurring thoughts recently, friends, regarding the subject of proper verbalization of ideas. Our ability to express our ideas through words. Through spoken words. Through written words. There always seems to be this insurmountable gap between thoughts, ideas and emotions and the words chosen to express them. I personally find myself struggling with it more than others (if I was able to express myself I'd be knocking out a post a day, but now it's more like a week), but even when I hear the speech of others their ideas seem to be trapped in the cage of words. Yet the more eloquent ones take a smug satisfaction in their ability of expression, as if this absurdity called language can foster a true expression of ideas.

That's just one extreme of the spectrum though. The other extreme is that it's a miracle how much we are able to express with words. Animalistic ideas, mundane ideas, complex ideas and abstract ideas; they can all be expressed in the most precise and descriptive of words. The miracle of language. There is no concept, even the most unearthly, that cannot clearly be described through the employment of words.

It is due to the contrast of these two extremes that I take interest in the differences between the way we speak today and the way people have spoken in the past. From the way characters in Victorian novels speak to the way Shakespearean characters speak, to way the ancient Romans speak to the way the bible characters speak. But especially the last (it obviously being the most arcane). I always wondered how they got any ideas through in that terse language of theirs. Yet on the other hand I always felt their speech to be more to the point. I was reminded of this after seeing this blasphemously low budget and low quality dramatization of a conversation between Elijah and Ahab last night, and then reading it (the very end of Kings I). It's always struck me that their sparse use of words might have allowed them to express themselves better than we do in our early 21st century American English, which to us seems to be the height of true expression. They were brutally honest and straightforward. It was the purity of their tongue that, instead of restricting their ideas, allowed them to speak of reality as it was....

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