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Proverbs are defined as "short sayings in common use that strikingly express some obvious truth or familiar experience" or "condensed but memorable sayings embodying important facts of experience taken as true by many people." Agreeing with both, I add: proverbs make dependable, invaluable bricks of human wisdom.  Continue reading...
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In his fascinating book (and 1994 best-seller) The Language Instinct, Stephen Pinker argues convincingly that we humans are born with an instinct to communicate with our voices. How humans in China form and arrange their communicative vocal sounds differs markedly from how humans in Finland do, but, Pinker asserts, beneath the many world's languages lies one universal language, an inborn ability to spin webs of words much as spiders spin webs of silk and beavers build dams of tree trunks and branches.  Continue reading...
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Hi! Hey! Ho! Yo! Ahem. Good day, ladies and gentlemen, umm, I'd like to address you today about the silly little words that we, umm, use without knowing if they're words or not: words like hey, hi, ho, yo, ahem, and umm. Here's hoping you don't find the topic ho-hum. (Oy, is anyone out there listening?)  Continue reading...
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"Calling a work of art ordinary is not ordinarily considered praise," Michael Lydon writes, "but I use the term as a lustrous laurel wreath." In particular, he singles out Anthony Trollope as a master of using language to depict ordinary human life: "not what we think life would, should, or could be like, but what life truly is like."  Continue reading...
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Communication — from the Latin "cum unio," union with — is the big answer humans have come up with to break us out of lifelong solitary confinement and link us up with other beings. Communication's content, the specific information sent or received, can be of life-or-death importance, but beneath the content, there's the bond, the union with, that communication creates, whether the content is "I love you" or "I hate you."  Continue reading...
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Michael Lydon has been swayed by the power of allusion. "I began by laughing at P. G. Wodehouse's addled literary quotations, and then I discovered how powerful and surprisingly subtle a writing resource allusion can be," he writes. "Though often overlooked, allusion lives omnipresent in the writing that surrounds us."  Continue reading...
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Michael Lydon makes an eloquent case for the central role of assonance in the craft of fine writing: "More than a device we can apply by rule or rote, assonance comes to us as a gift from language itself, from our deep animal urge to communicate with our voices."  Continue reading...
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2 3 4 5 6 Displaying 22-28 of 59 Articles