Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

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The Facts of Language

As a student of literature, I feel obliged to follow up my last entry of a few minutes ago with an addendum.

Obviously, when I use words like "something" or "it" in my attempt to express the idea that there is an _________ out there that exists independently of our consciousness, I am falling into the same trap that I'm trying to warn others about.

If "facts" are necessarily imperfect approximations of that __________ out there, then words are no better and often a lot worse, since the ambiguity of a lexeme like "love" far exceeds that of most mathematical results.

Returning to etymology, however, and the most used and abused point that has ever been made with its assistance, the word "to make" gives us not only "facts," but, in its Greek form, "poets."

Homo faber, the human maker, makes words into things and observations into facts. But the element of agency is ever present.

I won't worsen the abuse by claiming that scientists are poets, because the value of erasing the distinction between them is far surpassed, in my estimation, by the value of respecting it.

Some have done so, of course, particularly within the "postmodern" camp that the article Steven cited was deriding.

I'll close with a quote that has stuck with me since my freshperson year of college. My girlfriend at the time -- soon to make an appearance here in another "treasure" from my archives -- read poetry all the time. I believe the quote comes from William Carlos Williams in Patterson, about which she was writing a paper for Jim Breslin's English 131 Course in which Kim, whom I did not yet know, was also a student.

The quote, perhaps misremembered, is this: "language misses."

It would be amusing if the most influential quote in my literary development were itself a "miss," but I'll admit the possibility and move on to the Arizona equivalent of the DMV's emissions testing station.

At least I know my nose will pass, because nothing is passing in or out of it right now.

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