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beyond the Kuiper Belt, over the sea

Plain Speech

October 24th, 2010 by Kit

Language Log informs me that today is International Talk Like a Quaker Day, and so I think I’ll take the opportunity to think about plain speech, and what it means to me. I don’t think that thee-ing (not, as Language Log discusses, thou-ing) is really appropriate in the modern age. I’m generally against orthopraxy, and I think that the idea of plain speech is to set you apart not by strangeness, but by clarity, honesty and directness of speech. Continuing to thee really misses the point, as far as I’m concerned.

So, do I speak plainly? I try to. I fail in many ways, though: I certainly respond reflexively with clearly-false absurdities in many cases talking with small-f friends. I think I also, generally speaking, talk too much, and don’t allow time to consider my statements and what I’m responding to.

I’ll take today as a reminder to talk less, and mean more.

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  • Mair

    “I think I also, generally speaking, talk too much, and don’t allow time to consider my statements and what I’m responding to.”

    Blinking to hear you say this. Not at all in line with my impressions of thee – to wit:
    in elucidating ideas, your speech betrays a fierce clarity of thinking.

    The manner in which you do that, at least when speaking to family and friends, will contain a fair sprinkling of what may be termed esoteric words. (They can be either fun or off-putting. Do you do that with Joe Everyguy, too? That might get you in trouble, as evidence of education – and delight in education – is currently frowned upon.)

    In conversation, you allow ample time and room for the back and forth that makes for really good conversation.

    You are polite.

    And, you give every impression of listening to what the other person says, considering it and absorbing it.

    “clearly-false absurdities” ?? That’s just fun, no? Do Quakers not have fun or does Plain stand in the way?

  • kit

    Why thank you.

    I sure do hope we have fun! But at the same time, I feel like I want to modulate my knee-jerk responses, and make my words more considered. I’ve got some interesting inheritance from my Irish and Jewish sides, y’know! And while blarney is fun, it isn’t always the thing.

    I think, basically, I want more Hillel and a bit less tall tales.

    Though, clearly, I’m obsessed with stories, so we’ll see how that fits in.

  • Mair

    Try standing on one foot….it could shorten the tale!

    I’m with you on the knee-jerk, though. It’s funny, because the responses come from MUCH thinking but then – bam – they are set and as they get trotted out, they get more set. And before you know it, knee-jerk. It’s boring even to oneself, no? (and I’m thinking of me – not you – here)

  • kit

    Absolutely—particularly as I’ve been studying discourse, and seeing the interesting ways in which things can’t be unsaid—at all. Even if you make some disfluency and repair it immediately, people will respond to the thing you were about to say. And also, people have a hard time thinking and talking at the same time—turns out, talking takes cognitive effort.

    So it’s worth giving yourself a bit more time to think.

  • Mair

    And of course, that is the notable thing about Meeting: that you are – communally and societally, as it were – asked to sit and listen. A response may or may not come but mostly, you listen.