Letters Column for January 2007: The Plover-Saints of Fantasy

Posted on May 29, 2007 by Jenna

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Once more I descend into the murky depths of the letter bag, defying the newly-minted regulations of the U.S. postal service!


Thank you for your comments on the post of January 22nd,

David Goldfarb
Mr Tim


I, for one, welcome our Aryan mantid grammarian overlords.
— JoeCrow

The Roomba overlords discuss:

“Evolution occurs over the course of multiple generations.”

Thus by one vote you are saved; but lo! How carelessly disloyal crows make gamble with their lives; how close they dance unto the chasm of disdain! Please one overlord: anger the rest! Anger one overlord: please but few! Invincible Pascal, dominie of the world, cries out: express no pleasure, only downtrodden grief, and then should aught be overlords no part of your imagining, such wagers’d bring you weal.


Also, I can’t help thinking that the final twist would have worked better if it were “Sipply” instead of “Kipply”. I don’t think anyone would have guessed, even so.
— David Goldfarb

I couldn’t bear to! To name a character Kipply is something I might do, no pun intending; but to name a character Sipply would show my hand, not by revealing *what* I intended, but that I had intentions.


2) Is it “grammar nazi” or “grammar Nazi”? This appears to be a stylistic inconsistency.
— ADamiani

Vive du résistance!

it is nevertheless often considered formally incorrect to begin sentences with “and” or “but.”
— ADamiani

Your passive voice reveals your indecision! Who are these sinister grammarians so set against the fabric of the tongue? Why, they are hobgoblins, nothing more; illusions, dreams, the plover-saints of fantasy that we conjure when, tossing and turning in our fevered sleeps, we catch the sheets twixt tooth and tongue and imagine them as English. No; who calls it incorrect to make such sentences as suit the needs of the inflected pace shows no consideration, no true formality, but only a regressive dwelling in the dismal mire of half-remembered speeches of penguin-clad schoolmisers swirling in delirious sensoria with rulers raised and sweat streams on their palms. And glad I am you do not take their cause; but sorrowful I am that you should cite it.

…. ok, further continuance of that parody ceases to amuse me. Plus, (…) the reprisal could be brutal.
— ADamiani

Fear not; today I practice benevolence towards all things and bubble with my universal love.


Finally, this is just gorgeous,
— mneme

“This,” here, refers to

And for nine days she dangled there, barely living, barely breathing, and then she says, “You did not ask my name.”

And thank you for your kind words!


they’re so unusually meaningful, in that the way that one reads a post can be changed quite a bit by its designation as a history, a story, a legend, or a parenthetical (like a bonus). It produces in me an odd feeling that unless the whole thing is quoted, I haven’t really given the name of the post; i.e. “Essay Without Shame”, although it’s short and recognizeable, would be very different than “(Between Chapters) Essay Without Shame”.
— rpuchalsky

Ah! Here I jut my tongue teasingly in Eco’s direction; behold, thou umbertine signifimonger, thou merchant of connections, how your linear print paradigm clutches its stomach and rolls in gutpunched agony when confronted with the power of the web!

(With love, of course! With love!)


When one holds any belief so tightly that one is absolutely compelled to act on that belief, one loses volition.
— Mithrandir


Here I agree with your conclusions—herein omitted—but must take issue with your premise. Here, let me rant in such fashion as thoughts come to me; I will summarize below!

Volition is expressed in context; the rigidity of the context affects not the soul’s volition but its pace. The expression of a person is unitary, I hold, and manifest in a year or a moment; held rigid, one may crumble in the spirit, one may respond to this new stringency, but one does not become volitionless; from the enduring turbulence in the substance of our thoughts action will still arise. And moreover we are prone in our lives to express ourselves with embellishment: those who accept a principle may spend more of their life elaborating upon it than others, who fail to accept any such principle, spend on the entire structure of possibilities from which it comes! A person who conceives the world in such terms as to declare that oxygen exists and phlogiston does not makes a commitment—but, as Kuhn points out, a commitment that facilitates choice rather than devours it. To commit to a truth is no wogly; and I would argue that a binding to certain falsehoods is no more or less in vain.

Cast in somewhat clearer terms: I think that it is actually the perception of intransigence in the self that occludes volition. I think it is the sense that one is being stubborn, that one is being committed, that one is clinging, that makes that clinging reduce our choice. Making genuine epistemological, procedural, teleological, or moral commitments is in practice an act that facilitates the power in us of choice.

I agree with you that legislating morality is unwise, but I attribute this to something else. I think that it is a matter of failing to account for the fact that when I move my hand, I experience that kinesthetically, volitionally, and in a tactile fashion. I experience, in short, the flow of energy within the self that is me moving my hand. But everyone else experiences that very action in a different way: visually, for the most part, or in a tactile sense reversed, so to speak, in time. In just that fashion, the experience of being moral is not the same as the observation of others being moral; yet there is a trend to try to legislate that experience into the observation.


That does it. I was already in the process of removing the excess wire coathangers from my closets, but today I shall purge!
— cariset



I feel sorry for the unspoken, perhaps extinct, race of coat hangers – the plastic ones.
— Ravious

Had they but observed the precepts and the commandments, they too would have joined Noah on his ark; and as they did not, I fear your sympathy misplaced!

But if the Bible has failed them; if conventional morality finds them lacking; well, once again, genetic engineering steps up to the plate. I tell you, we shall have a world—not fifty years from now, not thirty years, but ten—where they shall frolic as God and Nature disintended, above the wide gray shelves of Earth.

Bless you all; I shall return again; but for today, this post is all.