Incurious Subliteracy

As I have often said here, I read a lot. No, more than what most folks think is “a lot”–much more. I have done for a little over 56 years now, and as a result have read a few thousand more books alone than anyone else I have yet met.

Now, that’s not in any way some sort of boasting, just a setting of the stage, as it were, OK? In fact, such addiction to reading is nothing to boast about at all, and, like other addictions, it has some undesirable or even simply irritating consequences.

One of the consequences of so very much reading is that I’ve observed a general diminution of literate use of English (I don’t read much in other languages any more and haven’t for a couple of decades *shrugs* It’s just worked out that way) in more and more recent works, and not just in the recent deluge of self-published (or “indie”) books. I’ll just cite one example of many in a recent book that I finished despite the fact that I wrote deprecating margin notes at least once per page, sometimes as many as four per page, expressing my disgust at egregious word misuses, inexcusable grammar errors, etc. The example?

“He was the exception that proves the rule,” misused to mean, in context of the rest of the passage, that this exceptional person demonstrated the validity of a particular “rule” by violating it and succeeding anyway.


That alone would have convinced me of the author’s obstinate, arrogant, obdurate incuriosity and ignorance. (Don’t assail me for redundancy–obstinate/obdurate. I’d add more synonyms with slightly variant meanings, but you have your own Thesaurus *heh*) Many, many decades ago, or so it seems to me now *heh*, I wondered at a use of “prove” that puzzled my childhood brain, as it did not seem to match up with the meaning I knew–show the truth of a thing via evidence or argument.

Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. — Malachi 3:10

As my curious search discovered then (thank heavens for a LARGE “library” style two-volume dictionary in our family library), “prove” is used in the verse as translated in the KJV text above to mean “test”. And just so is “prove” used in the phrase, “exception that proves (tests) the rule.”

And so is the richness and diversity of the English language–a language of which it has been said that it’s quite happy to drag other languages into a dark alley to mug ’em for as little as a useful participle–degraded by thousands upon thousands of subliterate, dim-witted, incurious dumbasses who never bother to read outside their own little box and so never discover that what they “know” just ain’t so. . . in spades, doubled and redoubled.

BTW, the book that garnered so much red ink from me is one I became convinced was written, proof-read and edited by a congress of bare-assed baboons. I had to cleanse my mental palate with some Shakespeare.

BTW, there are some very great benefits to a modern reader in reading Shakespeare, Fielding, Marlowe, Johnson and yes, the King James Version Bible, not the least of which is the discovery of the origins of many common expressions in context, something that can greatly enhance understanding of those expressions. This is quite apart from the fact that these guys–and the KJV Bible–are just better-written overall than most of the dreck written nowadays. People who complain about archaic words, expressions and constructions are just lazy boobs, IMO.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *