No word ever has exactly the same meaning twice.
- A basic premise of modern linguistic theory.
The snow doesn`t give a soft white damn Whom it touches.
Nothing less than a bonfire will ever stop a pen.
- T. Feret
One must know and recognize not merely the direct but the secret power of the word.
- Knut Hamsun.
“Language in its primitive function is to be regarded as a mode of action rather than as a countersign of thought.”
The study of language begins properly with a study of what language is about.
The crucial point to be considered in a study of language behaviour is the relationship between language and reality, between words and not-words.
Except as we understand this relationship, we run the grave risk of straining the delicate connection between words and facts, of permitting our words to go wild, and so of creating for ourselves fabrications of fantasy and delusion.
- Wendell Johnson.
I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor. It is something to be able to paint a particular picture, or to carve a statue, and so to make a few objects beautiful; but it is far more glorious to carve and paint the very atmosphere and medium through which we look, which morally we can do. To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.
- Henry David Thoreau, Walden.
shows the power and possibility of man…
The orator is the physician…
There is no true orator who is not a hero…
No act indicates more universal health than eloquence.
The special ingredients of this force are clear perceptions, memory, power of statement, logic, imagination or the skill to clothe your thought in natural images, passsion which is the heat, and then a grand will…
But this power which so fascinates and astonishes and commands, is only the exaggeration of a talent which is universal.
All men are competitors in this art.
Eloquence is as natural as swimming,
- an art which all men might learn, though so few do.
The orator must command the whole scale of language, from the most elegant to the most low and vile.
Everyone has felt how superior in force is the language of the street to that of the academy.
The street must be one of his tools.
Ought not the scholar to be able to convey his meaning in terms as short and strong as the porter or truckman uses to convey his?
The speech of the man in the street is invariably strong, nor can you mend it by making it what you call parliamentary.
The power of his speech is, that it is understood by all… but we must come to the main matter, of power of statement,
- know your fact; hug your fact.
For the essential thing is heat, and heat comes of sincerity.
Speak what you know and believe.
Eloquence is the power to translate a truth into language perfectly intelligible to the person to whom you speak
- Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Poetry is very similar to swearing.
It is highly charged and metaphorical.
It creates pointed effects by alliteration
or playing off different registers of the word hoard.
Further features are long adjectives contrasted with a short noun.
The most common bi-syllabic nouns are bastard, bugger and fucker.
These nouns invite bi-syllabic adjectives for counterbalance.
Sometimes there is another monosyllabic adjective to act as a fulcrum.
e.g. ” You plummy old pudding.”
Rhythm is very important.
The expletive idiom therefore has to have rhythm.
Often meaning is dislocated in order to fit stress into a particular pattern.
e.g. abso- bloody -lutely. This is also known as the integrated adjective.
The french term for the English in the time of Joan of Arc was
” Les Goddems” and ” Les Fuckoffs “.
Some societies do not swear at all,
e.g. The American Indians, Japanese, Malayans and most Polynesians. ( according to Montagu ).
Vico said – “Language is sacred then poetic and finally conventional.”
Certainly swearing is a violation of taboos from the Sacred to the Profane.
Swearing draws on religion, sex, madness, excretion, disease, and nationality.
The violent, the amusing, the shocking, the absurd, the casual and the impossible.
The Aborigines of Cape York peninsula in Northern Queensland have an elaborate etiquette of swearing based on social position.
Its 3 features are:
- it is done in public.
- it is immune from taboos.
- it induces a state of euphoria.
There are 2 types:
- bad language which chiefly refers to the anus and excrement.
- obscenity pure and simple, complete with references to the genitals which can be snatched playfully andÂ handled in public!
Taboos can be Universal like death, deity, madness, sex, excretion, and strangers.
Or Societal like the forces which sustain, alter or threaten life. These often reveal divisions of class, position, sex, and age.
The 2 dominant factors in making terms highly charged are:
- their degree of solidity.
- their proximity to the genital and or anal area.
Some words have history.
The big six in America are:
Shit, piss, fart, fuck, cock, and cunt.
Interestingly it is recorded that in 1230 there was a street in London called Gropecuntlane.
Geoffery Hughes who I am using as a Source gives several etymologies.
Prick he says, came into ( sorry )! the language about 1592. If he is right this may help to date Q20. and its word-play.
Fuck he says arrived around 1503. I see it personally as derived from dutch sailors and their vernacular. The verb `fokken` in Dutch means what breeding with animals implies. It`s human counterpart is quite graceful in comparison. (Or not I cannot know your sexlife!) The word has a counterpart ” opfokken ” with the sense of you are winding me up.
There are several folk etymologies of the word f**k, as many publications would have me write. These folk etymologies are the urban fairytales of linguistic use.
- The first, that it was a Royal edict (command) during the plague and it stands for: “Fornicate Under Command of the King”.
-the second is more recent and is supposed to represent a police term:
” For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge”.
The word, you must admit has tremendous emotive force and great flexibility.
It can be categorised as follows.
1. Personal, such as, you fuck.
2. Personal by reference, such as, the fucker.
3. Destinational, such as, fuck off.
4. Cursing, such as, fuck you.
5. A general expletive of anger, annoyance or frustration, such as, fuck.
6. an explicit expletive of anger, annoyance or frustration, such as, fuck it.
7. There is the capacity for adjectival extension, such as, the fucking asshole.
8. There is its use as a verb, such as, Don`t fuck me about.
And the ubiquitous, “Give it up fuck, and we won`t break no bones!”
Imagine for a second you are Elizabeth the First of England. Events of History are influenced by you. The known world is expanding with such a speed and you are priviliged enough to be a node of communication. The Renaissance you will remember was a time of simultaneous creativity and suppression.
It is a known fact that Henry the Eighth swore freely and exuberantly. His daughter Elizabeth carried on the family tradition. Imagine the pressure, the decisions that had to be made. You would feel like swearing, wouldn`t you?
O generation of the thoroughly smug
and thoroughly uncomfortable,
I have seen fisherman picknicking in the sun,
I have seen them with their untidy families,
I have seen their smiles full of teeth
and heard ungainly laughter.
And I am happier than you are,
And they were happier than I am;
And the fish swim in the lake
and do not even own clothing.
A mighty fortress is our God,
A good weapon and defense;
He helps us in every need
That we encounter.
Th old, evil enemy
Is determined to get us;
He makes vicious plans
With great might and cruel cunning;
Nothing on earth is like him….
But if the whole earth were full of demons
Eager to swallow us,
We would not fear,
For we should still be saved.
The Prince of this world
However fierce he claims to be,
Can do us no harm;
His power is under judgement;
One little word can fell him.
- Martin Luther.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
- William Ernest Henley.
The blind alley, the gorge, the bramble, the thicket and the net of opinions…
Opinion O disciples, is a disease;
Opinion is a tumour;
Opinion is a sore.
He who has overcome all opinion, O disciples,
is called a saint,
One who knows.
As i was going up the stair
I met a man who wasn`t there.
He wasn`t there again today.
I wish, i wish he`d stay away.
- Hughes Mearns.
Words for it.
I wish I could take language
And fold it like cool, moist rags.
I would lay words on your forehead.
I would wrap words on your wrists.
“There, there,” my words would say -
Or something better.
I would ask them to murmur,
“Hush” and “Shh, shhh, it`s all right.”
I would ask them to hold you all night.
I wish I could take language
And daub and soothe and cool
Where fever blisters and burns,
Where fever turns yourself against you.
I wish I could take language
And heal the words that were the wounds
You have no names for.
I’m going to crumple this word,
I`m going to twist it,
it`s too smooth,
it`s as though a big dog or
a big river had been licking it
over and over with tongue or water
for many years.
I want the word
to reveal the roughness,
the ferruginous salt,
the toothless strength of the earth,
the blood of those who talked
and of those who did not talk.
I want to see the thirst
inside the syllables,
I want to touch the fire in the sound:
I want to feel the darkness
of the scream. I want
like virgin rocks.
Voy a arrugar esta palabra
voy a torcerla,si,
es demasiado lisa,
es como si un gran perro o un gran rio
le hubiera repasado lengua o agua
durante muchos anos.
Quiero que en la palabra
se vea la asperaza,
la sal ferruginosa,
la fuerza desdentada de la tierra,
de los que hableron y de los que
Quiero ver la sed
adentro de las silabas:quiero tocar el fuego
en el sonido:
quiero sentir la oscuridad del grito.
Quiero palabras asperas,
como piedras virgenes.
from The Ill – Tempered Lover
I wish my tongue were a quiver the size of a huge cask
Packed and crammed with long black venemous rankling darts.
I`d fling you more full of them, and joy in the task,
Than ever Sebastian, or Caesar, with thirty three swords in his heart.
I`d make a porcupine out of you, or a pin-cushion, say;
The shafts should stand so thick you`d look like a headless hen
Hung up by the heels, with the long bare red neck stretching, curving, and dripping away
From the soiled floppy ball of ruffled feathers standing on end.
You should bristle like those cylindrical brushes they use to scrub out bottles,
Not even to reach the kindly earth with the soles of your prickled feet.
And I would stand by and watch you wriggle and writhe,
gurgling through the barbs in your throttle
Like a woolly caterpillar pinned on its back-
man, that would be sweet !
From love of you such strength did flow,
I was a god to drink of it;
And now, by God, I hate you so
It makes me weak to think of it.
By Carl Sandburg
THERE are no handles upon a language
Whereby men take hold of it
And mark it with signs for its remembrance.
It is a river, this language,
Once in a thousand years
Breaking a new course
Changing its way to the ocean.
It is mountain effluvia
Moving to valleys
And from nation to nation
Crossing borders and mixing.
Languages die like rivers.
Words wrapped round your tongue today
And broken to shape of thought
Between your teeth and lips speaking
Now and today
Shall be faded hieroglyphics
Ten thousand years from now.
Your song dies and changes
And is not here to-morrow
Any more than the wind
Blowing ten thousand years ago.
-Sonnet by Billy Collins
The Guardian, Saturday 7 June 2008
All we need is fourteen lines, well, thirteen now,
and after this next one just a dozen
to launch a little ship on love’s storm-tossed seas,
then only ten more left like rows of beans.
How easily it goes unless you get Elizabethan
and insist the iambic bongos must be played
and rhymes positioned at the ends of lines,
one for every station of the cross.
But hang on here while we make the turn
into the final six where all will be resolved,
where longing and heartache will find an end,
where Laura will tell Petrarch to put down his pen,
take off those crazy medieval tights,
blow out the lights, and come at last to bed.
-Four Quartets by T.S.Elliot
crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
under the tension, slip, slide, perish.
decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
will not say still.
words move, music moves
only in time; but that which is living
can only die.
words, after speech, reach
only by the form, the pattern,
can words or music reach
the stillness, as a Chinese jar still
moves perpetually in its stillness.
~ Budbill, David. While We’ve Still Got Feet.
The Way is like language. The more you use it,
the more it responds, becomes resilient, pliable,
lithe, liquid, smooth, supple, available, eager.
Go ahead, do anything you want to it. You can’t
hurt it. It is far more powerful than you are.
It’s there to serve and dominate you all at once.
Surrender to it and it will be your servant.
It is your tool, your toy, your master.
-Two Poems from Language
By Jack Spicer
1. Thing Language
This ocean, humiliating in its disguises
Tougher than anything.
No one listens to poetry. The ocean
Does not mean to be listened to. A drop
Or crash of water. It means
Is bread and butter
Pepper and salt. The death
That young men hope for. Aimlessly
It pounds the shore. White and aimless signals. No
One listens to poetry.
The trouble with comparing a poet with a radio is that radios
don’t develop scar-tissue. The tubes burn out, or with a
transistor, which most souls are, the battery or diagram
burns out replaceable or not replaceable, but not like that
punchdrunk fighter in the bar. The poet
Takes too many messages. The right to the ear that floored him
in New Jersey. The right to say that he stood six rounds with
Then they sell beer or go on sporting commissions, or, if the
scar tissue is too heavy, demonstrate in a bar where the
invisible champions might not have hit him. Too many of
The poet is a radio. The poet is a liar. The poet is a
And those messages (God would not damn them) do not even
know they are champions.
Voor wie dit leest
Gedrukte letters laat ik U hier kijken,
maar met mijn warme mond kan ik niet spreken,
mijn hete hand uit dit papier niet steken;
wat kan ik doen? Ik kan U niet bereiken.
O, als ik troosten kon, dan kon ik wenen,
Kom, leg Uw hand op dit papier (scherm); mijn huid ;
verzacht het vreemde door te druk verstenen
van het gescreven woord, of spreek het uit.
Menige verzen heb ik al geschreven,
ben menigen een vreemdeling gebleven
en wien ik griefde weet ik niets te geven:
liefde is het enige.
Liefde is het meestal ook geweest
die mij het potlood in de hand bewoog
tot ik mij slapende voorover boog
over de woorden die Gij wakkerleest.
Ik zou wel onder deze bladzij willen zijn
en door de letters heen van dit gedicht kijken in Uw lezende gezicht
en hunkeren naar het smelten van Uw pijn.
Doe deze woorden niet vergeefs ontwaken,
zij kunnen zich hun naaktheid niet vergeven ;
en laat Uw blik hun innigste niet raken
tenzij Gij door de liefde zijt gedreven.
Lees dit dan als een lang verwachte brief,
en wees gerust, en vrees niet de gedachte
dat U door deze woorden werd gekust:
ik heb je zo lief.
La lengua que arropara de vocablos mi cuna
es la lengua brotada del solar de Castilla.
Del Romancero a Lope, sin dejadez ninguna,
ofrécese en romance, soneto y redondilla.
Ni un átomo en mi forma corporal es reacio
al toque rutilante, musical y perfecto
de la lengua que en libro, cuartilla o cartapacio
le da, por su pureza, vigores al concepto.
Levántase la lengua de clásicos sabores
en los pergeñadores ciertos de la belleza.
Los doctores del canto, los puristas mayores,
me la sirven en cláusulas de altitud y justeza.
La lengua -voz de siglos-. a mi verbo se enlaza.
No habrán de destruirla, porque es la mejor parte
-lo substancial, lo eterno- del todo de mi raza.
Y mi raza es, en todo, fe, dolor, amor, arte.