A May issue of the New Yorker had been floating around my apartment, purse, and backpack for a while now (let’s not bother to count backward). When I finally did dig into it, though, I was delighted to come across Adam Gopnik’s “Word Magic.” Here are just a couple of my favorite parts:
1. On word use:
In truth, language seems less like a series of cells in which we are imprisoned than like a set of tools that help us escape: some of the files are rusty; some will open any door; and most you have to jiggle around in the lock. But, sooner or later, most words work.
2. An ode to good writing:
If lucid writing is the sign of a moral state, it’s the moral state of hard work, keener effort, acquired craft–a desire to communicate rather than intimidate, to have fun with a fellow-mind rather than bully a disciple. Sane and shapely sentences are good because they’re sane and shapely. There’s no guarantee that they’ll contain the truth: lots of sane and shapely sentence makers have had silly ideas. But, like sane and shapely people and homes, they are nice to have around to look at.