Friday, March 04, 2005

embrace embarras

Stewing overnight was the thought: despite the many blogs litteraire, they do not provide enough sustenance. The general concensus is that they are 'a jolly good thing'. The expectation was there, but in fact there are frequently que des morceaux. This is not to say that I, as someone who has set up a blit, is in anyway in the same league as most blitteurs, or, as might be said in the English: bliters. This is certainly true. I am a simple guy without a literary education: a scientist by training, without even the basics of my own language. Don't ask me to define every part of speech, or to know the terminology that goes with poetry. You will be wasting you time. I will write what I think to be a poem believing it to work qua poetry only to be told it doesn't scan. I am at a loss to know what 'doesn't scan' means. I proceed to draw little hops and skips between each phoneme, to little avail. Ignorance of this type is never an excuse: it is more about the inability ever to grasp certain things and notions through dint of lack of brains -or inability to apply oneself in certain areas - or all that and some deficit of temperament or personality. Fundamental ignorance, similarly, is built into artistic and literary types who squeal about the difficulty of science and technology. There would be little with which to tease each other over boozy diner parties, were this not so.

Going through a selection of blits last night, which I have already linked to, I was presented either with highly intellectualised , cumbrous, quasi-dissertions; not easily disernable notions; or reviews of books I was almost certainly never going to read. It is amusing how people who are intellectually curious [such as me] still want to know what the books are about, and whether others thing them worthy, even if they doubt they will ever read them! Hence the way book reviews are devoured.

Though I may alter these words here or there, later, my conclusion is simple: it is probably wiser to write more and read less. This, despite being told the more the read the better you will write. Writng for public consumption is quite unnerving because there is always the ever present sniffing of those who consider one's efforts to be paltry and light-weight. Every writer must naturally both write to a n audience in mind and be interesting to only a certain proportion of possible readers.

There had to be a title for this post: the French embarras de choix, or richesses, came to mind. Checking the French dictionary, it was surprising to see how many examples there were for 'embarras'. I felt sure that the English embarrass would have nothing like as many entries: I was right. The French has, for example, embarras de choix , ce n'est pas d'embarras [that's easy enough], Je suis dans l'embarras [I am at a loss]. It is obvious the word stretches meaning far more in French than the English embarrass. In fact we usually use other words to cover these cases. The etymology shows the word to be of foreign origin: embarrasser in french means to hinder, though it appears to have come from the Spanish. So our useage has resulted in a contraction of meaning.

It is generally considered affected in today's writing style to include foreign word or phrases: I use them as a form of sarcasm and self-mockery as well as because I think they are sometimes more concise and exact. It is also just great fun to discover them and try them out. So often the mot just is clearer than its English equivalent. Using long German compounds is considered to be a hanging offence, but what better than Wust's Verstand and Vernunft, when you are trying to explain the difference between discursive, analytical reason as against super-rational intuition? The roots of these words are easy to work out then build on. Saying wunderkinde, schadenfreude, gemeinshaft, zeitgeist almost slows meaning down and re-clarifies it by dividing it into its components in a way an English equivalent would not.

I am totally against someone who writes thinking he is making things clearer, when by letting himself go with words, he is only making it more difficult for his reader to understand what he means. I will come back with examples later.


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