I was reading a rogue copy of Sunset magazine that had somehow leapt into my mail box (Where did it come from? It had my name on it, but I don’t ever remember subscribing to it…) I recall Sunset as a dependable but slightly dotty aunt in my childhood household. My mother honored its very “California” recipes and often took suggestions from its pages for braised lettuce or curried tacos. With a careful and professional style, Sunset magazine was always a dependable read in medical waiting rooms or on short airline flights.
I’m not singing high praises for the magazine, particularly, but when I read the now updated version, I had a cranky, old lady moment. A (very short) article about the 100 year anniversary of the planting of Chardonnay grapes imported from France, had this as its lead paragraph,
Considering the amount of California Chardonnay we drink in this country, you’d think the wine was invented in the state. Oh, wait, it was –
Sunset Magazine,October 2012
There are so many ways this style of writing pains me, not the least of which in that it reads as if crafted by a ten-year-old. And I should know. This style of writing I call the “Talking in Writing” technique. Fifth grade boys usually employ this as their method, with narratives strung together by dialogue that features no quotation marks, and sound effects randomly inserted like cartoon bubbles: Blam! Wow! Oh No!
In a slightly unrelated connection, but still on the subject, the recent presidential debates, which I watched streamed live on line, featured a continual cut and paste border of Twitter tweets. These are the visual equivalent of the muttered smarty-isms better confined to one’s living room. I found that I needed to adjust the screen size and scroll the frame down so that I was not continually influenced by strange off-topic comments from viewers who had worked as hard on their tweeting names as they had their personalized licensed plates.
I’m proud of us as a society, to have the written word muck around in the backyards of the common citizen. I don’t think academics have exclusive rights to how the rules should be followed or broken. In fact, I’m generally charmed with the whimsical ways English speakers can manipulate the language, keeping it fresh and funny. I think we all need to try harder to be verbally sharp. I, myself, (correct usage here of ‘myself’) just yesterday uttered these words, “Gosh, it’s such a beautiful day. We are so lucky to live here.” I wanted to slap my own wrists! Think harder, Woman! Say something that hasn’t been uttered by a gazillion other people! Write something that has never been written before! And make it eloquent and expressive! A delight to read! Use the language to the ultimate!
Therefore, I give you an example of what has to be the most charming writing style in the English speaking world. Yes – dear England appropriately enough continues to print the absolute best verbiage in the media. And all for free: the headline –
“Todwick A57 accident blackspot improvement works begin”
Construction work has started on a £14.7m scheme to improve a notorious accident blackspot in South Yorkshire. More than 30 people have been injured on the A57 at Todwick, near Rotherham, between 2006 and 2011. The scheme includes a dual carriageway on a part of the 2.5km stretch of road, a crossroads and roundabout. A reduced speed limit is in operation until the work is finished. The project is expected to be completed by early 2014. The council said the new road scheme would also reduce traffic congestion and delays. Councillor Gerald Smith, from Rotherham Borough Council, said: “This road carries high levels of traffic so it needs to be as safe as possible. It has been troubled by road safety and congestion problems for years. “
Yes, so many, many words. And so many questions. What’s a blackspot? Would I know I was driving on a carriageway? Is Totwick actually in the Rotherham Borough? What IS a borough? I can draw no particular conclusion by contrasting these two examples of the English language in print, but I can only decide this: have a good time with writing, people; but don’t sound like a ten year old in print unless you actually are one. And in that case – you have to write even better than that to get an “A” from me! Cheers!