Friday, August 13, 2004

Support Our Linkage Sponsors (and Miscellaneous Topics)

I've been meaning to get around to neighborliness again, but it's just one of those things that keeps slipping away. So, since I'm here for the night to do some much needed work on a chapter, I might as well take a bit of a break to get it done. As near as I can tell from Technorati and BlogShares, these are most of the weblogs that have blogrolled me:

Parableman
The Elfin Ethicist
Early Modern Notes
Catholic Ragemonkey
A Journey Through Time

(There are a few I haven't listed because, since they blog on more personal matters, I don't know if they would want to be listed. You should know who you are; if you want to be listed, let me know by comments or e-mail.) But I know this is incomplete, because there's at least one more:

Cliopatria

BlogShares didn't pick it up because it's always rather behind. I'm not sure why Technorati didn't. In any case, if you have blogrolled me and aren't listed here, and want to be mentioned, let me know.

In any case, these are all great sites, and worthy of your time.

It might be worthwhile, since I'm on the subject, to say something about my own blogroll. In general, the following rules are in play:

1. I only blogroll sites that are updated fairly often; I'm the Cookie Monster of intellectual tidbits, so I need constant feeding.

2. I prefer not to blogroll political bloggers, by which I mean people who blog chiefly on partisan politics. Political bloggers are the parasitic scum of the blogosphere. Well, that's a little extreme. But, in general, I don't think it a good use of my blogroll to reward political blogging. This isn't an absolutely hard-and-fast rule, but if a political blogger gets on my blogroll it's because they(*) at least semi-regularly blog on something that I find more interesting (I think I tend to go easier on political mavericks, too, but I'm not sure). And naturally, many weblogs that would not be considered 'political' under my definition here nonetheless talk about politics: it's just that they do it as a reasonable part of a more important project (religion is the primary one, but there are others like philosophy and history). "More important" is the operative phrase.

3. And, of course, I have to like reading it!

(*) Yes, I am aware that "political blogger" is singular; but "they" is the most convenient neutral pronoun. I don't have a problem with, but can see the reason for changing, the generic "he", but I am beginning to have a considerable distaste for the continual writing of "he or she". I am what I have arbitrarily called a linguistic exemplarist: that is, I think a major guide to language usage should be the example of the greatest literary writers in the language. My full rules (the stupid names for them are off the top of my head):

1. The Exemplarity Rule: Do what the greats do - if you, like they, can get away with doing it.

2. The St. Paul Rule: All things are permissible but not all things are edifying; avoid in any particular case what is likely to be especially scandalous to others.

3. The Shining Use Rule: If it has a clear use and value for the great traditional strengths of English (vigorous balance and balanced vigor, the famous English 'punch' or 'impression'), don't be afraid to use it if the occasion allows for it. (Example: whom, which neatly differentiates the objective, as in: Whom shall we send and who will go for us? Example: subjunctive, as in: Would it were so, but it is not so. Example: y'all, which provides a lovely second person general plural that is transformable to the second person universal plural construction "all y'all", as in: All y'all need to wash up, and y'all also need to decide what to do today. Example: the Newfie after-perfect, as in: What are you after-doing now? - which is a presentist version of the sentence "What have you done?")

For Rule 1, see this great site on Jane Austen's extensive use of the singular 'their' and 'they', which also notes other authors who use it: "Geoffrey Chaucer, Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, the King James Bible, The Spectator, Jonathan Swift, Daniel Defoe, Frances Sheridan, Oliver Goldsmith, Henry Fielding, Maria Edgeworth, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, William Makepeace Thackeray, Sir Walter Scott, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Mrs. Gaskell, Anthony Trollope, John Ruskin, Robert Louis Stevenson, Walt Whitman, George Bernard Shaw, Lewis Carroll, Oscar Wilde, Rudyard Kipling, H. G. Wells, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Edith Wharton, W. H. Auden, Lord Dunsany, George Orwell, and C. S. Lewis." This is good company. Good company means (as a rule) good grammar (in a previous post, "Marginalia," I argued this with regard to the phrase "different than"). Indeed, this is the best company; if you aren't getting your prose skills from these people, from what source are you getting them?

Rule 2 is much more of a judgment call. For a good example of when Rule 2 is obviously in play, consider this example from Pride and Prejudice:

"Of whom does Jane ever think ill? And who is there, whatever might be their former conduct, that she would believe capable of such an attempt, till it were proved against them?"

Did you even notice it? If the style is good, the singular use of 'they' and other such forms works beautifully. Even if it were not so, you use it yourself. You know you do. But there are types of writing in which this construction should be avoided, because it will cause scandal. I don't recall ever having used it in a philosophy paper, but philosophers seem to get inordinately distracted by grammatical issues when they read philosophy papers. I have heard them fuss at great length over prepositions at the end of sentences; although split infinitives seem to get under their radar. So I wouldn't recommend it for a philosophy paper. I wouldn't recommend it for a school assignment, either. But in a blogging environment we can tolerate a bit of informality and thumb our noses at the Vigilantes - as long as we do it deliberately.

Rule 3 is obviously in play here; what else would be the reason for its occurrence, despite scolding grammarians, in practically all the major prose stylists in the English language?

Wow, this has been a Miscellany.

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