Stung Eye
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Grammar for two, please. [Jun 1] »

"Writing, like talking, is the art of expressing thoughts in words.... But there is, necessarily, a vast difference between the oral and the scriptural use of words. When we talk, we have for our ministers not words only, but also gesture, play of feature, modulation of the voice's tone, and regulation of its pace, whereby we may subtly temper or accentuate the words themselves, and fit them, be they never so carelessly chosen, exactly to our meaning. When we write, we have nothing but words, words, with those little summary and meagre things whose hard office is to ape the variable pauses of the human voice.... Thus is style in the modern sense a far more complex thing than style in the eighteenth century's sense. To express through printed words all the little side-lights of thought and fine shades of meaning that are in him is the task of the modern stylist; and the tricks and formalities which must be gone through in accomplishing that task carry him further and further away from his ordinary manner in colloquy. It is that very manner which he is trying to reproduce; but the only medium for its reproduction lies leagues away from it. Modern prose style is further removed from colloquialism than was the prose style of the eighteenth century, for this paradoxical reason: that colloquialism is its model."
Max Beerbohm, letter, quoted in David Cecil's biography, p.146
via Geoffrey Nunberg's Leaves from a Language Commonplace Book.

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