Letter to the Editor

Just words

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Dear Editor,

I marvel that Charles Nash rushes to the defense of a nameless person, and weighs into a relationship of which he knows nothing; which is, strictly speaking, none of his business.

His anguished objection to my effort "I Had a Friend" is a good example of what I tasked that late friend with, namely "taking things too seriously." Why so hot, Charles? As you say, it's only a newspaper column.

My other friends (yes, I do have one or two) say the column suggested my feelings had been hurt. Yet Charles sees only the potential hurt feelings of the other party.

"EcJeaternitatis" confused me too, Charles. Take it up with the scanner (which in another column managed to turn 10 cents into $100). Of course you won't like what it was supposed to be either: sub specie aeternitatis. I won't translate since you dislike translations too.

Predictably, Charles objects to generalizing, e.g. liberal-conservative. But we can't think at all without generalizing. The only alternative is a silence that doesn't speak volumes. Silence, indeed, seems to be what some people would prefer.

And then, when did "liberal" become pejorative? An insult?

To that "hate" of which I'm told I'm so full, Charles has added "bile." I invite him, as I invited my late friend, to point it out to me, to furnish the evidence.

"For her, many things were off the table." Charles finds this unclear, surely a printer's error.

According to the "American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms," since the 1600s "on the table" has meant "up for discussion."

I early found that, for my quondam friend, first politics, then most other social and cultural issues, weren't "up for discussion," save at risk of a quarrel. I don't know how better, clearer, to say it in eight words.

Yes, Charles's writing standards are more fashionable than mine (though he's certainly not practising what he preaches with his two Greek terms that will be Greek indeed to the hoi polloi and the autodidacts). In any age, however, there are a few writers who believe words are there to be used, and there are times when only the strangest words will do.

There are a few writers who have more respect for their readers than to dumb themselves down.

As for Latin, I despair of an educated person who doesn't appreciate Latin's concision, clarity, and euphony. Like most Latin tags, dum tacit clamant isn't just three Latin words strung together, it's a well-established proverb and legal maxim, with a baggage of connotations, a richness and depth, not conveyed in the translation.

But then, I'm not supposed to go into that. That would be "feigning vast learning."

Pat Brophy