Monday, June 28, 2010

The Absence of Words

I just finished reading Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier, and I highly recommend it for anyone who loves reading for the beauty of the writing, rather than just the plot. Du Maurier's description of the grounds at the great house of Manderley is exquisite. You can see the flowers in bloom, smell the multitude of scents, and feel the rain dripping softly on your head. It always amazes me how great writers are able to string together collections of individual words to make beautiful sentences that perfectly convey images or emotions.

Another detail that impressed me about Rebecca was how the absence of words made a significant impact in one case. The main character of the novel is a shy and unrefined young woman who falls in love with and marries the older and wealthy Maximilian de Winter in 1930s England. She finds herself overwhelmed by her sudden ascent to her position as mistress of a great house and the wife of a well-known aristocrat. She also becomes increasingly intimidated by the memory of the late Mrs. de Winter, who was well-bred, beautiful, and hugely popular among her acquaintances.

While one might assume the novel is named for the young Mrs. de Winter, "Rebecca" is, in fact, the late Mrs. de Winter. While she is the narrator and the main character of the novel, the new Mrs. de Winter's name is never given. She is entirely nameless at the beginning of the novel, and is subsequently only referred to as "Mrs. de Winter" or "madam." I found the subtly of this omission very intriguing. The narrator has no identity outside of her position as mistress of Manderley, so she has no name other than that of "Mrs. de Winter." Meanwhile, the character who isn't even alive at any point during the novel is not only given a name, but is the book's namesake as well. I was so impressed by the way the author was able to portray her heroine's mental state through such a simple thing as leaving her nameless.

So even though I love how words can create wonderful images and spell out complex emotions, I was thoroughly intrigued by the message that came across so clearly through the omission of words in Rebecca.

I hope everyone else finds this interesting as well. If not, you should still read Rebecca; it's a wonderfully written suspense novel that I think most people will enjoy!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Grammar in lyrics.

I have a notable collection of grammar pet peeves. Some of them are quite justified, but others are thoroughly silly. My example for the day is bad grammar in song lyrics. I can't stand it. Just now I was listening to a song with this line:

"So tell me when you hear my heart stop
You're the only one that knows"

It should be , "You're the only one who knows." The line refers to a person, not a thing, so it should be "who," not "that."

Every time I hear this in a song it bothers me. I'm trying to just enjoy the music, but as I sing along I hear the error and my singing stops. Can't help it. Is it really that hard to use the correct word? They have the same number of syllables and they don't need to rhyme with anything. Seems simple to me.


See what I mean? Thoroughly silly thing to get annoyed by. But there it is.

P.S. The song quoted above is "Possibility" by Lykke Lie, in case anyone is wondering.

Heliolatry's word of the day:

\hee-lee-OL-uh-tree\, noun: Worship of the sun.

Happy first day of Summer everyone!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Throwing big words into regular conversation.

Last night my friend and I continued our True Blood, Season 2 marathon. During one scene in which Bill Compton, the 200-year-old Southern gentleman vampire, is fighting with his maker he uses the word, "nihilism." I was so impressed by this! I love it when people throw words like that into normal conversation. My vocabulary isn't so advanced that I can do this very often. I try to learn new words, but it takes awhile to know them well enough to use them in regular sentences. I guess if you're 2 centuries old, you are probably more likely to have words such as "nihilism" in your vocabulary arsenal than those of us who grew up in the last 50 years. The English language has become more and more dull with each passing generation, but hopefully we word-lovers will keep it from becoming totally one-dimensional. So, come on, everybody, let's each try to use some sort of unexpected word in conversation today. Just make sure you actually know what it means first!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hello there.

I have long been fascinated by the use of words in the English language. Growing up, I loved to read and discover the ways other people were able to manipulate language to convey so many emotions and experiences. I also loved learning new words. I distinctly remember being in fourth grade and using "naive" in a creative writing exercise we had to do. I even wrote it out properly, with the umlaut over the "i." I don't if anyone else was impressed by this, but I was certainly impressed with myself!
Thanks partly to all the reading I did growing up, and largely to my mother's habit of correcting me all the time, I am also a stickler for proper spelling and grammar. Incorrectly spelled words, misguidedly placed apostrophes, and sadly structured sentences are like nails on a chalkboard to me. I have to resist the urge to take a red pen to signs, menus, and forms every time I see typos in them. This is not to say that I am always perfect myself; I know I make mistakes, too, and I am by no means an expert in the technicalities of grammar, (and if I ever make a mistake with it here, I hope someone will tell me!). I learned about all the parts of sentences and all those details long enough ago that I do not remember much of it. My ability to detect improper grammar and spelling comes from reading, writing college papers, and a certain amount of natural instinct.
My love of words and grammar finally led me to start this blog. I hope that other people with the same love will enjoy it!