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The finest language is mostly made up of simple unimposing words. Options
Daemon
Posted: Monday, January 21, 2013 12:00:00 AM
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The finest language is mostly made up of simple unimposing words.

George Eliot (1819-1880)
jcbarros
Posted: Monday, January 21, 2013 7:40:39 AM

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What language is that?
pedro
Posted: Monday, January 21, 2013 8:45:33 AM
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Not Esperanto I hope.
Miriam...
Posted: Monday, January 21, 2013 9:39:37 AM

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Joined: 12/20/2012
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To JC: I think George Elliot is speaking about language in general.

When I think about people who I consider to be extremely intelligent, one of their characteristics is that they speak and write very clearly and simply, and I understand them easily and completely, no matter how complex the subject.
MTC
Posted: Monday, January 21, 2013 12:02:23 PM
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Joined: 1/18/2011
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Daemon wrote:
The finest language is mostly made up of simple unimposing words.

George Eliot (1819-1880)


At first blush it is hard to argue with Eliot. Much of the finest language in English has indeed been written with "simple, unimposing words," not the least of which are passages from the Bible. Modern literary pundits agree with Eliot. Pick any guide on good writing from your local bookstore and you will find a mandatory chapter on writing plainly. And yet Eliot did not say "all" the best writing is written with a simple vocabulary. She said "most." Too often Eliot's qualification has been overlooked in the gold rush to a plain writing style. Some of the best authors in English have employed obscure words to the delight of their readers. Take Vladimir Nabokov, for instance. Comb through any of Nabokov's books and you will find words which send you scrambling for the dictionary: etiolated, lucerne, phocine, praedormitory, frass, enuretic, etc. Or consider Shakespeare whose plays and sonnets included many words he invented, words which could hardly be described as "plain." And when you think about it, why should an author restrict himself or herself to the average vocabulary of say twenty thousand words when there are well over one million to choose from? Would anyone seriously argue Van Gogh's palette be restricted to primary colors? Likewise it is ludicrous to suggest masters of English prose should be straight jacketed by the vocabulary of the average Jane or Joe. Eliot's argument is stronger when it comes to journalism and technical writing where communicating clearly is paramount. Eliot's argument is weaker for writers of serious fiction, the elite group she was writing about.
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