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Letter of comment.


I claim no particular expertise in your field, and have not even read To Be Or Not, but I recognize a fish when I smell one, and smell one I did upon reading the correspondence concerning E-Prime in your fall 1991 issue. My sympathies ought to lie with the proponents of this particular technique of language modification, for in adolescence I came up with a line of though quite similar, in which I tried to replace, as far as feasible, all descriptive nouns by their corresponding adjectives, and, if possible, to compress their meaning into one clear verb. Thus from sayiang, "I am a Canadian," a state, if you'll excuse the pun, the tries to puch all of me into this one word, an unbearable limitation, I moved to, "I am Canadian," a phrase which only encompasses part of me. It would change my meaning, however, to dump the "am" with absolutist finality, for no alternative suffices. "I hold Canadian citizenship" reaffirms that paper power of Ottaw (and while monarchs may chaim that "E'etat, c'est moi," this moi feels no affinity to any etat), "I think of myself as Canadian" obscures how others see me, and "I live in Canada" simplifies matters into falsehood. Saki wrote that, "A little falsehood sometimes saves tons of explanation," but this journal exists, like most academic publications, precisely for tons of explanation.

Vegetarians have no bones to pick. (Too definitive. Rewrite: "Those who eat no meat....") Nor can I adopt the persona of canine companion or feline familiar. Instead I shall have to speak as myself, as one who has taken a long time to find herself, and indeed has not come to the end of the path of self-discovery. My main discomfort with what I understand of E-Prime I can state briefly: it denies me the right to assert myself in the simplest way possible, to stand up and say, "I am, I exist, I am here." There are so many pressures in this society that try to persuade me not to exist, not to be myself. A chillingly flip example or this appeared on p. 316 beneath the article on dieting: a cartoon depicting the forces of commerce and industry literally pressing, squeezing, torturing a fat person into a acceptable shape. Explicit or what?

It strikes me that with all this denial of being and emphasis oh having and doing, the main changes evidents in prose constructed or econstructed in E-Prime rings of the typically male Western pursuits: rush rush, scurry scurry, define oneself by work and achievements and possessions. Thus it comes as no great surprise to find you editorial board and society, as listed on the inside front cover the ETC., over-whelmingly male. In E-Prime I see acceptance neither of what I could call, with gross oversimplification, "Zen knowledge," the insight of sitting quietly and, yes, just being, nor of femal experience, the intimate bonds of relationships -- not "having" (possessing) a child, a lover, a friend, but being joined to them. In this sense "being" describes not a fixed state but a dynamic, an action, the vibrating tension of the web of life. E-Prime misses this.

You've got some good ideas, boys, but you've got a lot to learn.
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Title Annotation:response to article, ETC: A Review of General Semantics, Fall 1991
Author:Wedge, Roberta
Publication:ETC.: A Review of General Semantics
Article Type:Letter to the Editor
Date:Sep 22, 1993
Previous Article:A Review of to be or Not: An E-Prime Anthology.
Next Article:Semantics.

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