12.10.2010

Who Talks Like That?

Photo by Pablo Coba
"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." 
                                                                  - United States Postal Service Creed

Wandering around downtown NYC, I stumbled upon a veritable Greek church. Inscribed across the face of this magnificent structure was the USPS creed. I almost cried when I read it. I paused at the nobility and pride in the duties of a civil servant. For the first time, the delivery of mail was no longer relegated to Netflix and pizza coupons. Christ, it made me want to put on a uniform. More than anything, it stung me with a twinge of romanticism. Fair warning, I'm going to get nostalgic for an ambiguous time that never existed. Where all buildings were testaments to architecture and words dented shields.

I was playing computers before I was interested in girls. Dad's Packard Bell blazed across the World Wide Web at speeds up to 14.4kbps. The Internet is synonymous with my generation. Instant communication dominates my life. E-mail, texts, IM, tweets. Brevity is the soul of modern communication. Gone are epic meditations in language. We are in, out, and on to the next thing. "C U there, LOL" lacks a certain musicality. Don't let me be misunderstood, our language has evolved. This  is not to say that it has progressed nor regressed, it is merely different. Anyone who's browsed a YouTube comments section knows that comedy gold lurks below. The art of a quality forum post has reached its zenith in our time.

The Ken Burns documentary series on the Civil War highlights the letters of soldiers to their wives. I dare you to watch it and not break down crying. I double dare you. The USPS creed got me hungry for powerful language. Imagine the gravity of a letter addressed to the love of your life in a time of war. The ink touching the page may be the last time you express your heart to the page. I can personally say that I've never expressed that side of me to anyone. Total vulnerability tapping into an oft unexplored side of our psychology.

Vocabulary, verbose prose, and eloquence have turned into four letter words. You can't say "copious" in a room full of people without catching flak. I vote nay. Let's rediscover language. Let's dig deep into the dictionary and find words that aptly describe our states. You're not happy, you're exuberant. You're not sad, you're forlorn. Let's put half the effort into our speech and our writing as we put into our hair.

Language can be brief and powerful, terse and musical. Let language off her leash. Her legs are cramped. She wants to stand with full extension in the knees. Shoulders taut, back straight and head high, she wants to sing.

Who talks like that?

We do.

6 comments :

  1. I love it when you put words together. They make a vivid picture in my brain.

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  2. I completely agree. I've made fun of so many times for using big words around some people that I've almost lost some of my vocabulary for lack of use. I'll judge people now if they have a poor vocabulary or worse, misspell or misuse words. Is our public education system really that bad? Unfortunately, I think it is.

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  3. This is true. I have had the opportunity to have been educated in a few different countries, with the US and the UK to name two. The differences are vast. The expectations of quality work from a very young age, are part of the fibre that seem to be missing from US schools. Many times I have had to dumb down a conversation when a comment has been met with a blank stare. Or even worse, attention is called to you for using a big word. I love beautiful handwriting, another lost talent. From now on, I pledge to use my big, beautiful words, and tomorrow, I am going to buy paper, envelopes and stamps, and hand write my Christmas cards. All with personal letters inside. Thank you Nick!

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  4. @Anonymous1. I can't paint or sculpt, so I build things with words.

    @Anonymous2. My high school was pretty bad. There weren't enough Spanish books to share. What really scares me is the anti-intellectualism that is so rampant now.

    @Anonymous3. I am envy. My handwriting is embarassing. Use your talents. Don't let them rust. Your response made my day. I love how we can be affected by one another.

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