Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Fidelity in Names

I haven’t been able to produce a VRP post in the last month or so, but I have successfully used the word “ubiquitous” several times in conversation. The beauty of the Project has not been blog-ally affirmed lately, but it has remained with me just the same.

The main cause of my eloquent silence has been my overly-intense semester, which has necessitated excessive essays and research. In my spare time, I find myself running to fiction (and basketball) for escape, rather than musing about how I could have improved the syntax of my latest paper.

I have, however, gained an even deeper appreciation for strong vocabulary, if that’s possible. When I was researching the early Christian apologist Tertullian, I came across this quotation:
All things will be in danger of being taken in a sense different from their own proper sense, and, whilst taken in that different sense, of losing their proper one, if they are called by a name which differs from their natural designation. Fidelity in names secures the safe appreciation of properties.

Tertullian’s writing arguably could have benefited from shorter sentences (I almost inserted a period), but his point is indubitably sharp-edged. Fidelity in names. And what is language, if not a system of names for everything? A web with myriads of threads, designed to catch and hold, momentarily, each element and act and feeling in the world? Contemplating vocabulary in terms of truthful naming is a bracing zephyr for a tired wordsmith.

On another front, I’ve been thinking about the attractiveness of having co-authors. I’m curious whether any of you would be interested in slapping up a post here at the VRP. If you think you have it in you (and having performed exhaustive background checks on the Project’s members, I know you do), please let me know. I’d welcome the company. It can get lonely here at the top of the lingual world, so speak up.

And in the meantime, pursue accuracy in your name-calling.