Monday, March 19, 2012

Words as Scalpels

Last night my wife and I watched the Stargate Atlantis Episode, The Seer (S4E08). One of the things that really struck me was the dialogue that was written for the man who played Davos (Martin Jarvis). It was beautiful. It was almost Shakespearian in character.

As a contrast I was also thinking about some of the lyrics from the Lady GaGa song Pokerface:

                I wanna roll with him a hard pair we will be
                A little gambling is fun when you’re with me, I love it
                Russian Roulette is not the same without a gun
                And baby when it’s love if it’s not rough it isn’t fun, fun

Contrast this with Romeo and Juliet Act 3, Scene 5:

      It was the lark, the herald of the morn,
       No nightingale: look, love, what envious streaks
       Do lace the severing clouds in yonder east:
       Night's candles are burnt out, and jocund day
       Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.
       I must be gone and live, or stay and die

Few would deny that Shakespeare was a true master artist with the written word. In this single section of conversation, he presents an imagery of morning that is creative and witty. How often have you imagined day standing on its tiptoes on the mountains in the east? Lady GaGa’s lyrics seem crude by comparison.

To use the titles comparison, Lady GaGa’s words are like trying to use a chainsaw for surgery. Shakespeare’s are the scalpel; precise, clear, and imaginative.

So why am I going on about this?

As it is a bit obvious from the first few posts on my blog here, I have been spending a great deal of time reading and writing legal documents. This has been an effort in specificity as I and my wife tried to write the most airtight documents we could. Since these are intended to protect us from intrusion from the Powers That Be, learning and using the correct language has been a bit of an eye-opener to how sloppy we as a society are in the use of language.

But I guess that depends on what the definition of “is” is.

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