Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Tag Archives: language

What’s Grammar Good For, Anyway?


I heard, many years ago, and have had it somewhat proven in the meantime, that the English grammar taught to us is actually Latin grammar.

I’m sure someone has written all this up nicely and I’m sure there are now books proclaiming to be Real English Grammar

I, honestly, don’t care.

As long as what I write is understood by most of the folks who read it, I’ll be happy with my knowledge of how words “should” go together.

I’ve learned what I know about wordsmithing by being a voracious reader—perhaps some of the authors of all those books knew their grammar

But, there are places where “proper” “grammar” might be called for:

— certain classes in certain schools

— a few resumes offered to select companies

— grammar blogs (only certain ones)

— various grammar books

Obviously, I’ve learned how to put words together—just ask my friends :-)

So, I suppose I use some sort of grammar

If you think what I’ve written so far in this post is drivel or worse, please let me have it in the Comments.

If you sort of agree with some of it, watch this video

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What Good Is Language?


Being an author, I find language quite handy and I’m sure folks who like to read find language a boon; why, even publishers can see value in language.

So, why in the world would I ask such a “silly” question in the title of this post?

Well, when it comes to language, knowing what words are and how they arise in the mind and find their way to the page or screen is one thing; contemplating why humans have language at all is quite another thing

I’ve embedded a video below but, by way of introducing it, I want to harken back to two previous posts about advice:

Taking Advice ~ Who’s Experience Do You Trust? and Playing The Advice Game . . .

Advice comes from a French phrase, ço m’est à vis,  or “it seems to me”.

And, like the caveats about advice in those two previous posts, I want you, as you enjoy this speculative video about why humans have language, to remember, no matter how interesting or helpful this man’s ideas are, it’s all as it seems to him :-)


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Facing Negative Criticism ~ Is Thinking Like An Artist The Same As Thinking Like A Normal Human?


Our last post, about criticism and using the integrity of the book to defend against negativity, had me saying this:

“At each stage of this process [all the steps of getting feedback on my book] I was of two minds: the merely human writer seeking perspective and the Artist, bearing the Book and feeling its Life and Truth…”

A merely human writer is any writer when they consider things from a conscious, objective, society-oriented perspective.

The Artist is the same writer when they consider things from a deeper-than-conscious, subjective, not-necessarily-society-oriented perspective.

Language is slippery and seems to favor, in most instances, a conscious, objective approach that engages some aspect of developed social structure.

Just comparing my sentences up there about a merely human writer and an Artist, just looking at what I had to do to contrast the two frames of mind is one example of how Language can respond to simple comparisons.

I could have used a more metaphorical approach:

A merely human writer thinks like the Manager of a shop full of creative people.

An Artist is the same writer when they think like a shop full of creative people.

I could take this comparison further into the waters of metaphor:

The merely human writer: “I was riding the waves of criticism, responding with what I had in the boat–signalling flags and lights, carrier pigeons with responses secured to their ankles; and, finally, I had to abandon the boat, floating with the aid of a life-vest but without the aid of my compass and map, now sinking with the boat.”

The Artist: “The sea of criticism broke its waves against the shore of my understanding. I lashed myself to the rocks and bore it all for love of my Muse.”

Just a bit exaggerated, eh? Also, those examples are only me giving voice to my perception of the different ways I handle the thoughts of other people when they share their negative opinions of my writing…

How do you handle negative criticism, how do the merely human and Artist aspects of your nature think and communicate when the waves start to rise?
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Words or Deeds ~ Which One Tells You More About A Person?


Most writers have heard the maxim, “Show Don’t Tell”.  And, even though action in a book can keep most readers turning pages, I find it oh, so ironic that those actions are being conveyed with words :-)

Language is strange! And strange means “foreign”. And, a blog written by someone who’s first language isn’t English prompted me to write this post.

Before I talk about that, I want to explore this Words/Deeds issue.

I’ll leave the strange situation of writing’s challenge of expressing deeds with words for a possible future post. Here, I’ll ask a number of questions:

Which do you feel more comfortable using to convey your heart-felt principles: words or deeds?

Even though many Holy Texts hold deeds above words, do you find certain situations demanding words more than deeds?

Can deeds “say” things better than words?

What do you do when you find a person’s deeds saying something different than their words?

Which can you trust more: deeds or words?

As I write this post, I’m performing a deed. I have to use words to create the result of the deed (this post). The affect of the result of my deed is different for different people. Some folks will respond to the result with other words in the comments. That’s the result of one of their deeds…

Are you starting to feel a bit of the bedeviling wonder I’m experiencing as I explore the interrelationship of words and deeds?

“But, he said he loves me!”

“Right, honey, but look at what he’s doing.”

“I know… But I love him…”

“Just watch yourself, baby.”

So, I started writing this post because someone started following me on Twitter and I checked the link they had in their profile and it led to their blog. It became obvious they weren’t very familiar with expressing themselves in English. I noticed they were from Indonesia but much of what they said let me know that, when it came to their daily deeds, they engaged in things nearly identical to people who grow up speaking English.

I have to say that a person “misusing” English is not reason enough for me to ignore what their trying to say. I have a friend from Lithuania. His art says way more than his words but even his words—crafted more from the structuring of his native language than from English—his words are deeply artistic and actually can say more to me than many who write “good” English…

One day, it’s likely our world will have one language that everyone learns, along with their native tongue, from their earliest years. [It won’t necessarily be English.] Everyone will be fluent in two languages—one that can create challenges of understanding for others and one that will unite our entire human family in the never-boring task of exploring the relative worth of Words and Deeds.
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