Friday, August 08, 2014


Finicking with Trifles

Otto Jespersen (1860-1943), Selected Writings (1960; rpt. London: Routledge, 2010), pp. 470-471:
To anyone who finds that linguistic study is a worthless finicking with trifles, I would reply that life consists of little things; the important matter is to see them largely. All scientific inquiry must occupy itself with a mass of details whose significance is not evident to the uninitiated, whether it be the life-conditions of mosquito-larvae, the distant paths of a comet or the state of society in the reign of some mediaeval king. The investigator must not be asking the whole time what good his investigations will do or can do: that may reveal itself in the most unexpected places. Research has its first reward in itself, chiefly in the natural joy at any—even the least—discovery which brings clearness into what before was not understood.

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