Thoughts on writing for my 400th post

Thoughts on writing for my 400th post

On July 14, 2014, I sat down and started this blog with three posts, the better to keep myself from wondering what to do first and to keep from looking like I was a rookie with just one posted essay to my name. Those three posts are still the backbone of my categories Sustaining Books, Browsing through Bartlett's (Familiar Quotations), and Words Worth Defending.

Now, with this 400th post, I want to share some thoughts about the state of the language and what I've learned about it through observing it for nearly five years in order to write about it.

Words Worth Defending is the category that the world has striven to change for me. I began it as a way to get some use out of obscure or dying words, to defend them by getting them some use in my own writing and encourage you, my readers, to get to know them.

But the world is in such a state that all words now seem much more worth defending than they did in 2014. Too many people in high positions seem to care too little about the correct use and meaning of words. There are too many days when "You know what I mean" needs contradicting -- I don't know what the speaker means when misusing a word, I know only the standard meaning of the misused word.

I think of words as tools of my craft, and I would no more destroy a word by using it poorly than I would have destroyed my mother's sewing machine or my father's workbench. My words are like their tools, built over the years to do particular jobs.

But there are no hardware stores to get new words when we lose an old one. There are dictionaries and other references, such as cyclopedias, but we need to be careful in using them. We need teachers, writers and editors to act like the owners of the hardware stores who can say "I have the tool for that right over here."

We need to be like shoppers when we're looking for a word -- not just hunting in our minds, but ready to look up what we want, and know where to look. Getting a million potential answers on a search engine isn't necessarily as effective as going to a specific reference, such as The New Harvard Dictionary of Music. and finding specific details within it.

My category Sustaining Books is changing, too. I took the title from a Winnie-the-Pooh story by A.A. Milne, "In Which Pooh Goes Visiting and Gets Into a Tight Place." Specifically, he gets stuck in Rabbit's doorway. Since he must stay until he's thin enough to get out, he asks, "Then would you read a Sustaining Book, such as would help and comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness?"

There's more Great Tightness in my life than it had five years ago, when I started to think that Sustaining Books might be a good type of blog. But the meaning is shifting a bit. I'm becoming more fond of the change from the world's many required screens to the retreat of the paper page. "The same old thing" is far from an insult here.

French, Scottish, and musical influences have changed less than these two categories, and I continue to enjoy sharing their influence on my life and language.

Browsing through Bartlett's, my original name for topical selections of quotations, remains a way to react to particular topics with what might be considered pure editing -- just looking up a word and selecting particular quotations that include it.

But now, with post no. 400, I can look at a collection of my own and find things I want to quote.

I'm glad I've been doing this for most of the past five years. Thanks for coming along.

Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook... at the moment. (It may yet get combined with my personal page.)


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  • Congratulations on 400 posts! Here's to many more.

  • In reply to Weather Girl:

    Thanks for the kind words -- throughout the whole journey, not just today.

  • "You know what I mean" : What bothers me more are those (mostly athletes) who say in an irregular pattern "you know." If I did, I didn't need him to tell me. The other perversion of the language was pointed out when George Stephanopoulos told Sarah Sanders in effect, "you said something different to me now than you did to the FBI because you know that lying to the FBI is a federal offense."

    "We need teachers, writers and editors to act like the owners of the hardware stores who can say 'I have the tool for that right over here.' " Aside from your observation that search engines are not edited, I have noted from experience that purported web sources, especially Wikipedia, that claim to be crowd sourced, are not reliable, but somewhere between hearsay and fiction. The only rule I go by is that reliable, edited sources are behind secure paywalls.

  • In reply to jack:

    Thanks,Jack. Crowd-sourced is not among my compliments. I don't know who is in the crowd, and I don't know what they know about the subject they write about. So how can I take them, well, Seriously?

  • In reply to Margaret H. Laing:

    True, and some of them are thugs. My association ended about 12 years ago.

  • Congratulations on 400, my friend. Keep up the great work. BTW, I was looking up info on cholesterol and found something with the banner "HDL verses LDL". We all love verses, I hope, but not between good and bad lipoproteins.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Thank you for the kind words -- and for the good catch of a poetic idea."How do you like to go up in a swing, Up in the air so blue? My doctor says is 'tis not a good thing for cholesterol to do!" (Sorry, RLS.)

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