links for 2009-05-17

  • If there is an underlying metaphysical principal guiding The Elements of Style (the one with White's additional chapter) it is something like the following: language is simple, direct, and expressive… except that it's magical, dynamic, and unfettered. White looks at Thomas Paine's famous sentence, "These are the times that try men's souls." He tries switching it around to, "Times like these try men's souls." It crashes to the ground. Why? We simply do not know. No explanation seems adequate. Try it yourself. Try to actually explain, with reasons and causes, why the one sentence sets the aforementioned soul stirring while the other practically extinguishes it.

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