Wednesday, 10 August 2016

overseas lipogram or parts of speech

After reading about the novel efforts of two writers to produce coherent stories without the letter e—such constraining composition is described as lipogrammatical but the results usually are not so epic in scope (usually just avoiding the rarer letters), I was reminded how, by this illustration, the biggest compliment that two interlocutors can pay one another is being mutually intelligible in their message. Literacy is not in the parsing or omission but in being comprehensible, even when handicapped and leaning too heavily on other conceits. One’s audience is moreover not averse to being challenged and it’s not always necessary to be clear and concise with convenience-words, and some effort at unpacking meaning is a welcome thing—especially if those gentle readers don’t realise what level of exertion is being asked of them.
It is difficult to say what muse possessed these authors to eschew this one letter (as is the case with most every undertaking), but perhaps e was not the most penitent of choices. Though the alphabet that we have inherited from the ages is bereft of original meanings and there is no memory left in the symbols—what we pronounce as vowels unrepresented in the written word and all signifying much different sounds according to local language and extent of contact with outsiders, the story and pedigree that we are able to reconstruct for e seems a particularly cheerful one that encapsulates why writing and communication in general is something to be cherished and cultivated. Before passing almost unchanged from Greek to Latin, the letter developed from a Semitic one that linguists believe represented an out-stretched hand and ultimately from an ancient Egyptian hieroglyph (sacred writing) that expressed jubilation upon meeting a kindred spirit.