Sunday, May 28, 2017

Commentary On Le Bon Mot

A discussion with a reader prompts this posting. Commentaries are often conducted as dialogues on weblogs, using the commentary box. Sometimes necessity makes them monologues, as this one is. Commentary will appear randomly as needed.

The essay 'Le Bon Mot' was written to explicate a point I made regarding words and language. The point was that writing (or speaking) should be entertaining. I used 'entertain' in a broad sense. My 1934 Webster's defined the word this way: To keep, hold, or maintain in the mind with favor; to receive and take into consideration. I also suggested that to be entertaining words and language should be aesthetically and/or intellectually pleasing (more on this in CwHD5).

The style of language used in the essay is also important. Martin Joos in his weighty little book The Five Clocks identifies five basic styles. For the sake of argument, only three are needed. These three I label formal, mixed, and colloquial (formal, consultative, and casual in Joos). One writes a formal essay for one's English 101 assignment. IM chatter, tweets, talkin' to the neighbor over the back fence are probably goin' to be laid-back, slangy thangs. Mixing the two styles often creates confusion; but just as often might communicate a complex notion more effectively than either one of the other two styles alone.

Poetic-prose is essentially poetry. Mixed style is common. I call this slapstick prose (Joyce often referred to Finnegan's Wake as a 600 page joke). Wordgames are the order of the day. Sometimes I omit a word or say ... (an ellipsis helps to understand the vacancy; but sometimes even the dots get in the way)

Additionally, the essay utilizes three modes of expression: words themselves (often causing something of a meaning bind [thanks, Ludwig]); numbers (as in calculating lunars for navigation (often leading to the depths of despair); and representational images (totems, for example, although dog insists on the lascivious redhead, the beast).

Reading 'Le Bon Mot' as though it were a poem (think ee cummings; who he? worth a look) might benefit the reader. Outloud might help. Otherwise ...

For your entertainment, the first and last lines from Finnegan's Wake:

riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.

Finn, again. Take. Bussofttlhee, mememormee! Till thousend sthee. Lps. The keys to. Given! A way a lone a last a loved a long time

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