language architecture

Man, everyone’s obsessed with Hemingway. I think I really started noticing after I had a really vivid dream about him, induced by anti-malarial drugs. I dreamed he was still alive, had faked his own death and was hanging in Boquete, Panama. I believed the dream was real for like 3 hours after I woke up. That may have awakened me more to Hemingway in general.

Anyway. I guess I say “obsessed” because a lot of people at my old job (The Martin Agency) seemed really into him. For a lot of internal communication, people in the agency were adopting this weird, very controlled, curt-but-gentle voice that I suspected was supposed to be emulating him. It bugged the crap out of me. Crispin Porter + Bogusky does it too. Like some queen gliding around the court making the subjects aware of her benevolence.

Hemingway was too good of a writer to sound like that though. The point is you don’t notice how he sounds, just what he is saying.

Besides my malaria dream, I guess I have been thinking about him a lot because of speaking my second language all the time. When your vocabulary is smaller than your ideas, you have to come up with creative ways to communicate using simpler words. And not just that, you also have to come up with creative ways to structure your ideas so that they complement each other and highlight what you want to highlight. You start talking in stories.

This is also related to teaching. I believe I have mentioned that before, but here’s another good example: Stephen Hawking wrote an article about a time machine for the Daily Mail. Do you know how dumb the Daily Mail is? Total tabloid, but obviously Hawking is cool with that.

I finished reading his article in a really good mood, not just because it made me think about the fourth dimension, but also because of how Hawking makes the mechanics of time travel really clear and simple. I’m glad his intelligence includes the ability to explain things well.


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