Monday, January 9, 2012

Does That Make Sense?

In any language, whether spoken or written, there exists a structured syntax, a set of grammar rules to regulate sentence construction. Without such organization, language would be ineffectual, right? Random words gestured haphazardly make no sense.

Even made-up languages maintain structure. Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky of Through the Looking Glass is sheer nonsense. Or is it?

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand;
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

The poem’s theme may not be immediately evident, but it has rhythm and rhyme and structure and some sort of imagery of which main character Alice herself says, “Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas—only I don’t know exactly what they are!”

What about languages long since outdated and archaic? Take this piece of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales in Middle English, for example:

But ye that holden this tale a folye,
As of a fox, or of a cok and hen,
Taketh the moralitee, goode men.
For Seint Paul seith that al that written is,
To our doctrine it is y-write, y-wis.
Taketh the fruyt, and lat the chaf be stille.

Indeed a message can be discerned without the benefit of a translator. Well-written material with proper structure—grammar, syntax, punctuation, formatting—can leave quite an impact on the reader. It is effective communication that can leave quite an impression, even when the words are not completely understood.

So learn the language in which you write. Know its rules and know how to break them correctly. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, KJV), because “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33) and neither should you be.

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2 comments:

Steadfast Ahoy! said...

It's late--dark outside and soon time for bed. I've been scrolling thru the blog posts of those I follow. Some are funny spoofs on all sorts of comic fare. Some are life stories of woe. Some are infomercials. And then...this one. Stop. Read purposefully. Think. Like I said, it's late. Yes, I will endeavour to be a better writer. Thank you for the reminder.
Rosemary

Jodi Whisenhunt said...

Thank you, Rosemary! I'm glad you enjoyed the message.

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