Friday, April 01, 2005


Grammar and Style

Henry David Thoreau, Journals, January 2, 1859:
When I hear the hypercritical quarreling about grammar and style, the position of the particles, etc., etc., stretching or contracting every speaker to certain rules of theirs -- Mr Webster, perhaps, not having spoken according to Mr. Kirkham's rule -- I see that they forget that the first requisite and rule is that expression shall be vital and natural, as much as the voice of a brute or an interjection: first of all, mother tongue; and last of all, artificial or father tongue. Essentially your truest poetic sentence is as free and lawless as a lamb's bleat. The grammarian is often one who can neither cry nor laugh, yet thinks that he can express human emotions. So the posture masters tell you how to walk -- turning your toes out, perhaps excessively -- but so the beautiful walkers are not made.

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