Monday, September 19, 2005

One-Syllable Genius

Last week, a G.K. Chesterton quote was the catalyst that sent several of chasing a chancy but absorbing goal: Write a post using only one-syllable words. As the man said, “It is a good exercise to try for once in a way to express any opinion one holds in words of one syllable...”

Clearly, this was a Pandora’s box that few would approach. Attempt it and fail, and you look pathetic. Attempt it and succeed, and you still might look sophomoric.

Nonetheless, three brave souls took the plunge. And arguably, (though this is open to debate) no reputations were critically damaged in the incident.

Belinda wrote Single-Syllable-Soul-Searching.
My spouse sleeps and snores, and knows naught of my thoughts or deeds at this late hour. As a point of fact, said dogs snore as well, and are just as blind and deaf as to what might be on my mind or in my heart at this time--this time when no one should be up, least of all me.

Erin wrote a poetic retrospective piece.
[Robert] Frost: How I loved him, and the way he'd stroke my soul with his paths through the woods, and the way he made me feel as though he read me first and then wrote me, -drew me- next to the fence, on his horse - in each flake of snow.

And yours truly wrote One Sick Life.
You feel sick...You groan and slump down in front of the screen. You look in a school book and turn pages. You push your hands at the keys. You start to write for school. It will not be good but it will be done. It takes hours. You are not as smart as you are.

Scintillating, eh? It’s not too late to join us. Then we’ll forever associate you with traits like “brave” and “smart” and “wise” and “real.” And who wouldn’t want that? If you don’t care to take a stab at the Chesterton Challenge, you should at least go read our posts and say complimentary things. In all sincerity, of course.

I’m curious how the writing process went for the others. I found it surprisingly cathartic, as if various unexpressed thoughts from my childhood were finally being articulatedor something. Simultaneously, it was quite hard. As I said earlier (wryly), "I think the task made small changes to my mind." Nonetheless, I feel a strengthened impulse to convey complex (profound?) ideas in the most simple and direct language possible. This is, refreshingly, in no way incompatible with the stated goals of this site.

Any other post-dare reflections?


Blogger Erin said...

It was, in ways, easier to do than I'd thought it would be, even though one 2-syllable word did slip past me... and in ways it was harder than I thought. I think that was because my mind equates single-syllable with simple and common so I found myself using everyday words only to have to remember that though it WAS a common word, it WASN'T monosyllabic.

It was definitely an exercise that made me consider my word usage, and habits, in a way I hadn't done in a very long time (since counting syllables to write Haiku.)

I sincerely hope more people attempt it - I think they'll find it to be a real eye-opener.

1:52 PM  
Blogger Belinda said...

I had several "edits" in my first paragraph. After that, I got into the flow of it and it was quite easy. It helped also, to make it about something that was actually happening that moment, kind of how Ariel did, rather than the monumental task Erin took on of creating a poetic narrative. (Have I mentioned I liked hers best?)

I think she said it took her 2 or 3 days to finish hers...mine was done in 30 minutes, which speaks volumes as to the difference in quality of content!

11:31 PM  
Blogger Ariel said...

Similar to what Erin said, I realized I often equate "small" (i.e. one-syllable) words with crude meanings. Trying to write exclusively with small words forced me to confront this bias head-on. There are a multitude of short words with subtly nuanced meanings, and I need to avail myself more fully.

And, to second what Belinda said, Erin does deserve some kind of special credit for the lyrical, narrative beauty of her post. She proved definitively, I think, that small words are not a hindrance to eloquence.

1:16 PM  
Blogger The Zoink said...

Not to nitpick, but "pages" is definitely two syllables.

9:41 PM  

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