Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Consistency in the Age of Reason

Top o' the morning to you.

In writing and editing, an area of primary concern is consistency—of tense, subject, number, gender, style, voice, etc.

Rarely, though, have I heard much about consistency of name. Chuck Klosterman loosely addresses this topic in his book Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas, in a discussion of the relative rankings of (mostly rock) bands, arguing that we should rate bands based on our expectations overlaid against how good (or bad) they really are. If I remember correctly, using this analysis KISS is the best band in the world and U2 one of the worst; both rankings seem completely valid to me (no, I'm not smiling snarkily, I really believe that).

I think we should measure words in a similar fashion: how they look and sound measured against their meaning, and judged accordingly. Thus my intense dislike of the words monosyllabic and disambiguation, both looking and sounding like opposites of their intended meanings. For more on this (well, actually less, but in poetic style), see my blog post "Gray Flicker of Perfect Confusion . . . ." This is also why I have trouble discussing the rules of creative writing (which is a bit redundant to begin with).

Words that appear and sound like their meanings tend to be about sound, which is not surprising: buzz, snap, saw, lisp, rap, bang, smack, wham, boom. But why is stingray so much more descriptive than bear? Does the word bear strike fear in people's hearts? Not really. Now, if bear sounded more like influenza, we would have less bear attacks, I imagine.

Back to my point. Let's see . . . ah, that's right—I realized that I apply this to other elements of my life, and you may want to as well. For instance, I tend to buy my beer (yet another example, along with bare and bar, of why the word bear scares no one) and other libations based on their names and the inherent accuracy thereof. High-volume, low-taste American commercial beers are typically flavorless, despite their names and wordy label descriptions. On the other hand, these two, one foreign and one domestic, waste few words describing themselves, as their names alone suffice:

The defense rests.