Friday, 10 July 2009

Quote for the Week

I’m currently reading Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. Although Carroll’s work obviously offers a whole host of interesting quotes, its focus on language (and more specifically the footnotes quoting from Lewis Carroll’s Symbolic Logic) reminded me of a quote that I have been thinking of putting up for quite some time. It comes from Seamus Heaney’s introduction to his translation of Beowulf:

‘But in Hiberno-English Scullion-speak, the particle ‘so’ came naturally to the rescue, because in that idiom ‘so’ operates as an expression that obliterates all previous discourse and narrative, and at the same time functions as an exclamation calling for immediate attention’ (from page xxvii).

Ever since reading this I’ve never been able to write the word ‘so’ at the beginning of a sentence without thinking about it. Like many other words, ‘so’ is a simple, common word that we use on a daily basis and because of this we use it automatically, without even really thinking about what it means or the power that it contains. What’s great about the quote from Heaney is that it takes us back to the word itself and makes us consider language in a (perhaps) new way. Although I wouldn’t say that I hold any particularly special interest in linguistics or semantics, as a writer I like to feel that connection with language and I love the way that Heaney expresses the outright power which can be conveyed by the conjunction of two simple letters.

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