Xah's Belles-lettres Blog Archive 2011-09 to 2011-09

English Writing Style: Oxford Comma and Strippers

Interesting word: Apophasis.

Allusion to something by denying that it will be mentioned, as in “I will not bring up my opponent's questionable financial dealings”. (AHD)

Quote from Wikipedia:

Apophasis

Apophasis was originally and more broadly a method of logical reasoning or argument by denial—a way of describing what something is by explaining what it is not, or a process-of-elimination way of talking about something by talking about what it is not.

A useful inductive technique when given a limited universe of possibilities, the exclusion of all but the one remaining is affirmation through negation. The familiar guessing-game of Twenty Questions is an example of apophatic inquiry.

This sense has generally fallen into disuse and is frequently overlooked, although it is still current in certain contexts, such as mysticism and negative theology.

Paralipsis

Paralipsis (παράλειψις) …, is a rhetorical device wherein the speaker or writer invokes a subject by denying that it should be invoked. As such, it can be seen as a rhetorical relative of irony. Paralipsis is usually employed to make a subversive ad hominem attack.

The device is typically used to distance the speaker from unfair claims, while still bringing them up. For instance, a politician might say, “I don't even want to talk about the allegations that my opponent is a drunk.”

Proslepsis is an extreme kind of paralipsis that gives the full details of the acts one is claiming to pass over; for example, “I will not stoop to mentioning the occasion last winter when our esteemed opponent was found asleep in an alleyway with an empty bottle of vodka still pressed to his lips.”[2]

Paralipsis was often used by Cicero in his orations, such as “I will not even mention the fact that you betrayed us in the Roman people by aiding Catiline.”

Occultatio

Occultatio, although sometimes used as a synonym for paralipsis, is more often a literary figure most often seen in plays, where a character describes a scene or object by not describing it. For example, in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, act 4, scene 1, the character Grumio describes the eventful coming of his master and new wife to a young servant by saying,

“Hadst thou not crossed me, thou shouldst have heard how her horse fell and she under her horse; thou shouldst have heard in how miry a place, how she was bemoiled, […] with many things of worthy memory, which now shall die in oblivion and thou return unexperienced to thy grave.”

In this speech, Grumio, angry at the servant's interruptions, “refuses” to describe what happened, and in so doing, describes it fully.

English: Etymology of Tits

Shakespeare vs Dr Seuss Rap Battle 📺

Funny Joke: Prince and Princess vs English and Chinese

英文老師:我從沒見過這麼爛的作文!

國文老師:寫了什麼?

英文老師:王子和公主的故事。

國文老師:不錯啊。

英文老師:什麼不錯,他竟在開頭寫王子問公主『Can you speak Chinese? 公主「Yes!」』,後面就全是中文了!

English translation:

English teacher: I've never seen such a bad essay.

Chines teacher: What's it about?

English teacher: A story of prince and princess

Chines teacher: That's not so bad.

English teacher: It's bad! He began with «“Can you speak Chinese?” Princess: “Yes”», henceforth it's all Chinese!

Today's Wordy English: autodidact, polymath, polyglot, opsimath.

autodidact means someone who learned on his own, as opposed to from a educational institution. This is not to be confused with autocrat or despot.

Related terms are polymath and polyglot. Polymath is a person who has expertise in several diverse subject areas. Polyglot means a person who is proficient in several languages. Often, polymath and polyglot are also autodidact. One of my nickname used online is polyglut. It's a wordplay based on polymath and polyglot, with the glut hinting at gluttony.

A related, but more obscure word is opsimath. It means a late learner. I didn't start learning much of highschool subjects till age 20. So i might be considered a opsimath.

Here's a passage from Arabian Nights (The Porter And The Three Ladies Of Baghdad) describing a polyglot lady:

Thereupon sat a lady bright of blee, with brow beaming brilliancy, the dream of philosophy, whose eyes were fraught with Babel's gramarye and her eyebrows were arched as for archery. Her breath breathed ambergris and perfumery and her lips were sugar to taste and carnelian to see. Her stature was straight as the letter l and her face shamed the noon sun's radiancy; and she was even as a galaxy, or a dome with golden marquetry, or a bride displayed in choicest finery, or a noble maid of Araby.

Today's Wordy English: gaunt: http://wordy-english.blogspot.com/2011/09/gaunt.html

For my Wordy English, here's a plan:

During wee hours, i'll post a SAT level word. (like right now. This is the time period when Asia and Europe is alive. So, easier words for potential readers, for whom English may not be their native lang.)

During US daytime (while Asians and Europeans are asleep), i'll try to post more difficult ones but still commonly used, like GRE level words, or sometimes interesting esoteric and arcane ones used in poetry.

By the way, in my this old age (43), i've read my share of printed journals. As far as quality writing with vocabulary is concerned, i'm very impressed by Time Mag. Even today, almost always, every time i read time mag (the printed version, not their online blog sensationalism crap), there are always many words that i'm not sure i know or know well. (remember, my definition of “knowing” a word is that you can give a reasonable definition of a word without even seeing the context it is used, and when seeing it in a sentence, you should be able to confidently judge how well the author used it). Time Mag always impressed me in this regard. They've got real journalism going on there (as opposed to today's one-dime-a-dozen online journalists fck who are all over g+) Curiously, i didn't find this quality in other mags. Not in news papers, not in Scientific American, not in tech magazines (For example, MacWorld, MacWeek, MacUser of the 1990s). I haven't read New Yorker much or other equivalent, so maybe that's why.

The thing about quality writing such as Time Mag is that, it's not just how well the article is written, but, you can tell that the authors know their dictions extremely well, and this usually means the authors understand the etymology of the words they use. For non-technical writings, this is the difference between quality writing and mediocre ones. Also, i suppose many writers there, have greate general knowledge (i.e. what so-called “liberal arts” colleges teach). More specifically, when they report some news, or some opinion piece essay, they are not just familiar with the subject matter or done research well, but they have a very good general knowledge in history, arts, because they genuinely have a wide interest that they've cultivated over their life.

Ask yourself, if you are a writer, or programer, or maybe you are a activist, or tech blogger, or even 3D tech artist, photographer, you probably know your subject matter well, but do you have a good, general knowledge about, say, European History? Asian History? World history? Law systems thru times? World Philosophy? or about ancient languages? Math, Logic, the sciences? It is these qualities, makes a man's opinion eternal, and it is this i personally appreciate and aspire.

iron ball,
rusted and scarred,
tittering on the window sill,
wondering, when
he's gonna fall
—Xah Lee, 2011-09-01