haiku, humor, photography

Fall Frolic

October is Chores Can Wait Month.  I took a short walk that inspired a haiku, but the chore gremlins got their revenge when the haiku generated yet another chore.  That’s OK.  Writing about the nuts and bolts of haiku beats raking leaves.
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Fall Frolic #1
|Dancing on the breeze,
|ignorant of gravity:
|red leaf in blue sky.

Nuts and Bolts

My haiku has “#1” in its title to distinguish it from a similar haiku Fall Frolic #2.  I prefer #1.  Why bother with #2 at all?  The answer to that question helps answer some others.

Fall Frolic #1 implicitly poses a riddle, then provides the answer.  Who is the ignorant dancer?  More subtly, why is (s)he said to be dancing “on” (not “in” or “with”) the breeze?  The basic structure is the same as in Jane Reichold’s classic

roasting_veg_chkn_800x575

Haiku © Jane Reichold superimposed on
Photo © Vladlena Azima | ShutterStock

Now consider swapping the initial and final lines of my riddle haiku:

Fall Frolic #2
|Red leaf in blue sky,
|ignorant of gravity:
|dancing on the breeze.

While #2 describes the same scene #1, it lacks the suspense and resolution of the riddle structure.  While both versions work, #1 works better.  I still owe U an explanation: why bother with #2 at all?

The first draft for what eventually became #1 had initial and final lines that were very close to the corresponding lines in #2.  The middle line had an entirely different way of hinting that the leaf’s freedom is a temporary illusion, between being stuck on the tree and stuck on the ground.  The first draft’s hint would have been too obscure w/o either an appropriate picture or the explicit scene setting done by the initial line in #2.

Already unhappy with the first draft’s middle line, I swapped initial and final lines on a whim.  The resulting riddle structure was motivation to get serious about clarifying the middle line.

Some haiku poets strive to have the initial and final lines be interchangeable.  Unless I am responding to a challenge calling for haiku that work just as well when the initial and final lines are swapped, I usually do not consider swapping.  Too gimmicky and arcane.  But a swap while revising might help answer the eternal writers’ questions

Am I saying what I want to say?

Am I saying it clearly?

red-leaf_blue-2_haiku-144_840x465

 

enlightenment, grammar, history, humor, language, politics, science

Writing Well – Part 1

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Introduction

Here are links to all posts in this project of reviewing and supplementing the splendid book

The Lexicographer’s Dilemma by Jack Lynch.

  1. Introduction
    What does the rise of “proper” English have in common with a physics conundrum about gravity?
  2. Babies, Names, and Snobs
    We name words by wrapping them in square brackets to avoid overloading more common conventions.
  3. Descriptivism, Prescriptivism, and ????
    We add a new ISM to the familiar duo of attitudes toward English language usage: readabilism.
  4. Why is English Spelling Such a Mess?
    An insight into the difficulty of spelling reform has wide-ranging significance, far beyond spelling.
  5. Ambiguity Sucks!
    Ambiguity is almost always at least a little harmful to clear communication. It can be disastrous.
  6. What is the Point of Punctuation?
    Careful punctuation helps avoid unwanted ambiguity.
  7. Yogi Berra’s Paradox
    Sometimes bad English is good English that’s good because it’s bad.
  8. Blood & Gold End This Series
    Apart from a concern about the examples on 2 late pages in the book, I could applaud those pages until my hands bleed.

lex-dilem_jack-lynch
Writing well ain’t easy.  If the word “ain’t” in the previous sentence raised hackles, U really need to read The Lexicographer’s Dilemma by Jack Lynch.  If not?  Read it anyway.  This post starts a series of posts that includes a glowing review of the book, with my own additions and amplifications for some points (and a few mild disagreements).

One of the few complaints I have about the book is that the title is too narrow.  Yes, the book considers lexicography.  It also considers grammar, punctuation, spelling, and vulgarisms.  In just 276 well-written pages (not counting source notes and such), it considers all these things with serious historical scholarship and considerable humor (mostly dry; sometimes LOL).

Why a series of posts?  Doing justice to the scope of the book in a single post would be tough unless what I wrote was only a book review, and the single post might still be quite long.  Better to write a separate post of moderate length on each of several themes in the book, adding something worthwhile to each.  In between posts in this Writing Well series, I can post on other topics.  If I think of yet another way that the sane and decent people in the USA might resist the Age of Trumpery, I want to interrupt the series rather than interrupt work on a single humongous draft.

Can a noncontiguous series work?  Across the Room and Into the Fire is working quite well for Óglach, with Part 6 (out of a projected 7) posted as of this writing.

Example 1.1: Recency of “Proper” English


Example numbers in this series have the form (part number).(number within the part), just in case I want to refer to an example in one part when writing up another part.

The following quote from page 10 of the book poses a conundrum that cries out for the kind of historical investigation exemplified by the book.

For just one third of 1 percent of the history of language in general, and for just 20 percent of the history of our own language, have we had to go to school to study the language we already speak.

When something is that strange, asking how the Hell it happened is not just idle curiosity.  It might lead to major insights.  Here is something similarly strange in physics.

For every chunk of matter in the entire universe (no matter what it is made of), the gravitational mass is exactly the same as the inertial mass.

For everything we can get our hands on, the equality of the 2 kinds of mass has been verified to more decimal places than I can count on my fingers.  Why is gravity like this?  Isaac Newton had no idea at all.  His theory of gravity could use this fact but could not explain it.  Early in the previous century, many physicists were uneasy about this apparent cosmic coincidence.  They were also uneasy about a piddling tiny difference between how Mercury orbited the sun and how Newton’s theory predicted it would orbit the sun.

One of the uneasy physicists was Albert Einstein, whose more elaborate theory of gravity gave an elegant explanation of the equality of the 2 kinds of mass and yielded predictions that were slightly different from Newton’s.  When Einstein published his theory in 1916, the only known differences were just barely measurable by those who cared about nerdy stuff like the perihelion of Mercury’s orbit.  Today, we know of many other differences.  Thanks to our knowledge of some of them, your GPS is more than just an expensive paperweight.

Acknowledgements


Jack Lynch wrote the book that anchors this series.  The historical perspective helped me refine my own views.  Want to see many examples of clear writing that is balanced and nuanced w/o being wishy-washy?  Read the book.

Óglach is among the bloggers who demonstrate that good writing can thrive in the blogosphere.   Thanking all those I know would take up too much space and omit those I do not know, but I must thank him for the inspiration to try a noncontiguous series.

Miriam Sargon taught the AP English class that I took in my senior year of high school.  (My post on lexicography will say a little more about that class.)  Back in the 1962/1963 academic year, well-informed people could still believe that Enlightenment values were winning (albeit slowly and with many setbacks).  She did not preach those values; she exemplified them.