24 July, 2006

Why I love fashion

Minimalism, maximalism, shorts, ruffles, braces, cropped jackets — the trends for this spring are a nightmare. Not only are there more of them than ever, they all contradict each other. Just what, exactly, are we supposed to wear? The answer this time around is: whatever you want. Never has fashion been more about personal style, about what appeals to you.
— Tiffanie Darke, Sunday Times Style section, March 19, 2006.

How kind! On a more relevant note, posts at Language Log here and here, and at 2Blowhards, about prose style, Strunk and White, German intellectuals and architecture. Fascinating stuff. . .

10 comments:

Gawain said...

I stopped with 2blowhards because it was a little too much into popculture. am i wrong?

Gawain said...

language log writes:

"there are contexts in which a reasonable person might find a passive to be smoother, more interesting, and more natural than an active."

but fails to give an example. is there not one he can think of? is he postulating the existence of strange tastes?

Gawain said...

and while on the subject, all languages seem to have the active/passive distinction, an interesting redundancy.

A Little Thought said...

The active/passive debate is one I am far too familiar with for professional reasons!

It also seems to me that this is an instance of the development of a particular kind of taste - as the Language Log post indicates, no one advises avoidance of the passive voice until the 20th Century.

The larger problem is that people armed with this, and a few other "rules" (use small words, write short sentences, etc), often wind up sounding blunt and unintelligent.

These strictures are not a suitable replacement for learning how to write well, a far longer and much more arduous process.

Truth be told, these rules, wielded by people whose knowledge of writing stops at them, make my life miserable on a daily basis!

A Little Thought said...

If an example of the passive being better, aesthetically speaking, than the active is even possible, then I humbly submit the following for your consideration

"We were delayed by the rain."

"The rain delayed us."

Conrad H. Roth said...

Myself, I am positively disturbed by the thought that the active might ever be bettered by the passive, that a slow and indirect style might ever be preferred over rapid vigour--surely the front is progressed to by the hook of every sentence, and this fact should be accordingly reflected by a writer's style?

A Little Thought said...

HA HA HA!!

Thank you, Conrad. The head of the nail tapped gracefully by the head of the hammer.

Richard said...

"Never has fashion been more about personal style, about what appeals to you"

A cynic would suggest that a society that doesn't really have much of a popular culture isn't really going to have much use for fashion in the sense she means...

Conrad H. Roth said...

Thanks, friends. I'd forgotten about an earlier rant I wrote on the topic, for those interested:

http://vunex.blogspot.com/2006/03/sous-les-pavs-la-plage.html

For what it's worth, I think that use of the passive voice is strongly related to an important linguistic habit discussed by linguists but ignored by writers on style: topicalization/clefting (see the excellent Wikipedia articles thereon). One of these days I'll write a post on it.

Gawain said...

alt, a good example: i don't share your perception, but can see how you could have it ("we were delayed by the rain" does not sound clunky).