The Words We Use — Language is fluid, isn’t it?

Since the time of Cro-Magnon orators, we have continuously and thankfully modified our languages.  Now there are many hundreds spoken, and many hundreds more have slid back into the recesses of time. And all this is a good thing. Had changes not occurred, we never would have had metaphors or s’mores? Yes, language changes with the times and the complexity of the world in general. This linguistic mutability is for some however a heady wine. Wine, and especially a good wine, can enhance a meal while it improves digestion, and it aids in the defeat of free-radicals. Similarly, changes in language can enhance good rhetoric, while aiding in the digestion of new ideas, and it helps clarify vagueness. However, like wine on the lips of some, changes in language can be committed for change-sake, a heady sense of self-empowerment, or a sad but general detachment from the value of standards.

There are agencies that actually inspire seemingly random, screw-cap changes in our language – at least in the English language – creating changes for the sake of catchiness. These catchy words and phrases, along with words born in the vacuum of lexical deficiencies, are picked up and proliferated across our land by the various media. Accepting the validity of anything posted on social media especially, no matter how dubious or pointless, furthers the corruption of our language. We become besotted with these jingly changes, spewing them into our own communities. And they are infectious – or rather—and forgive me for saying it, “They go viral!”

What then is the result? Do we have a better understanding of any thought that might have been subtly embedded? Well, that’s a tricky question. In the first place, so much of what is written or said has no particular meaning. The speaker or writer may simply be trying to evoke a reaction, not a thoughtful assessment, from the listener or reader. Anything like meaning is just an empty carton, wrapped in glib gift wrap, giving the impression of meaning. It is intended to sound ‘a way’: funny, comforting, threatening, etc. But, hey, actual thinking is calorie costly work. No, no! Life is supposed to be fun and feel good. Entertainment over information. Thus, the second reason that better understanding is unlikely is that the reader or listener, more often than not, wants reassurance, not reasoned argument. Bias affirmation not cognitive stimulation. So, two halves of a communication: sender and receiver – half of the model has no meaningful message to deliver, and the other half has no interest in analyzing one. So, ignore everything I’ve written so far and just enjoy the catchy bits. We go on, however.

We know that it happens, but how?

Beowulf Manuscript from https://mymodernmet.com/old-english-manuscripts/, 24 Aug 2020

How ever did we get to this point? To begin with, the English language has indeed been changing since well before it was even Old English – Anglo-Saxon, a Germanic tongue. Beowulf (shown here) represents the state of language around 1,000 years ago. The change since then has occurred over the last 1% or so of the whole course language. So change is natural and it is certainly going on pretty much everywhere today, but perhaps a little more quickly.

By the way, this bit says:

Hwæt. We Gardena in geardagum,
þeodcyninga, þrym gefrunon,
hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.
Oft Scyld Scefing sceaþena þreatum,
monegum mægþum, meodosetla ofteah,
egsode eorlas. Syððan ærest wearð
feasceaft funden, he þæs frofre gebad,
weox under wolcnum, weorðmyndum þah,
oðþæt him æghwylc þara ymbsittendra
ofer hronrade hyran scolde,
gomban gyldan. þæt wæs god cyning.
ðæm eafera wæs æfter cenned,
geong in geardum, þone god sende
folce to frofre; fyrenðearfe ongeat
þe hie ær drugon aldorlease
lange hwile. Him þæs liffrea,
wuldres wealdend, woroldare forgeaf;
Beowulf wæs breme blæd wide sprang,
Scyldes eafera Scedelandum in.
Swa sceal geong guma gode gewyrcean,

Even when neither invasion nor rising mercantilism is the source, languages cross boundaries in other ways. The more people travel or emigrate, the more they take their language into new places. “Tobacco” came back to Europe from the Americas as both a product and a word. Food and other consumables often enter the language and are easily adopted. Though sometimes the adoption is not so easy. “Hot dog” was brought to France during the Second World War. The word was rejected from the official French language under the dictatorship of the Académie Française, but it might have seemed more acceptable to the French people than the source food name, Frankfurter.Historically, there are three ways that languages change. The first of these is simply conquest and submission. In 1066, the Anglo-Saxons who ruled the south and east of modern England were displaced by Norman conquerors. The latter spoke Old French – Latinized Gallic probably influenced by Norse, since the Norse had established a colony in Normandy as they had in Dublin and Scarborough and many other places. Skipping the complexities of the era, Norman French of the then ruling class merged with the Saxon German of the peasantry and smaller estates, because they needed to be able to communicate with one another. Their pidgin became Middle and then Modern English over 500 years of so. We maintain some of the features of that pidgin, such as the Saxon cow () in the barn becoming the Norman beef (boef) on the plate.

The Académie Française, by the way, has had only some success in stopping changes to French. The conservative linguistic scholars simply came too late to the game. French, like all languages, has suffered or enjoyed gradual vocal drift, for example. Vocal drift is a change that has brewed over hundreds of years. Did the French always drop the final consonant sound of words? The result of vocal drift is easy to see in the current differences in American and British English speakers, and is even apparent in regional differences across America and across England. We learn to form the sounds of our language as babies, and that there would be slight differences in what is formed is not surprising. Children spend much of their speech practice with other children. This allows changes from one family to influence children from another family. Vocal drift is especially common in vowel sounds. We all tend to take several vowels (ă, ĕ, ŭ) toward the schwa sound, eh, for example.

The third change mechanism is word addition often resulting from advances in civilization and technology. Since civilization is about living together, language would have to evolve with it. At some point, farmers tell their hunter neighbors that it’s okay to hunt on their land because otherwise the animals might eat the food plants they had planted there, which seem attract animals, such as deer. “You planted food plants?” “Yes, indeed, and I call it a farm. So, please, hunt the deer on my farm, but don’t crush the crops.” “Crops?” These days, we are swamped with technobabble, of course, and that’s actually a big part of an emerging problem. English isn’t just evolving to meet changing needs; it’s become a form of (self?)-entertainment, and it’s degrading. And while my efforts may be as pointless as those of the Académie Française, I will appeal to the consciences of thoughtful, communicative readers such as yourselves to hold out against the corrosion of English.

As now, language had an explosion around 450 years ago. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the printing press and Protestantism in Europe engendered a fairly large increase in those who read. That in turn supported the amount of writing that was going on. Language needed to standardize. The vocabulary of the times—more properly called a lexicon—in the village of 100 was bumping into the lexicons of other villages, and moreover, the lexicons of places such as the court in London. Shakespeare helped the explosion. He created hundreds of new words, mostly out of old ones, such as “eyeball.” Now, I rush to the defense of Willie here; he had good cause for creating a new word and he didn’t run it into the ground with over use. The thing he was writing about needed a better word than any that existed, and it was needed to complete an iamb. Shakespeare’s inventions didn’t degrade the language. They met a need and they were not, and did not become hollow catchy sounds. Many became words commonly used today. That’s no longer the case.

Today we are dealing with forces changes to our language that do not meet a need and which are becoming overused and often used so far from their origins, if they even have one, that they have become superfluous and utterly meaningless. It is as if we are emptying meaning and poetic charm out of English. Trendy words that have supplanted English existing words have become unclear in their meanings. They are pseudo-words, junk words.

Many such changes are purely gratuitous. For decades cute, slang-veined spelling was the change of frivolous choice. “Quick” became “Kwik.” How very “kwaint.” That slang-creating trend has metamorphosed, or, in the truncated, digital-age cant, “morphed.” Thus we see some of the changes as auditory abbreviations. A few, such as President Coolidge’s conversion of “normality” to “normalcy,” are probably the deposits of lexical ignorance; the speaker didn’t know there was already a word for the desired meaning. More recent are the changes that are truly unnecessary, and cannot be overlooked as cuteness, laziness or ignorance either.

They are changes for change sake, pointless and a little crude. One such change is the generation of new words by converting a noun or less often an adjective into a verb, usually by adding “ing,” an act I call “verbing”. The classic “verbed” word is “priority,” used as “prioritize” to mean “set priorities.” It was probably born of not knowing that “prioritize” was not a word, but could appear to be by adding a Latinate suffix, the classic way to shift parts of speech. It is has become accepted now and so is a real language change, not just kitsch verbing. Such questionable changes are represented by such words as “texting.” A text is a set of words usually in print. The term distinguishes words from images or other visual features. When we send text from one mobile device to another in the form of a words-only message, are we “texting” or worse “messaging”? Surely, we are not so strapped for time that we can’t say, “Send me a message,” rather than, “Text me.” “Cover me in text?” A “text message” is already moreover redundant, since messages are text for delivery.

Handling new technology derived words is challenging. Considering the bright lines that distinguish engineering and mathematics from linguistic cognition, philosophical discourse or other humanities, one hardly wonders that computer hardware and software engineers are recasting language into a digital system that computers can handle. And we even speak of programming languages, which create systems where the exact same input will always return the exact same output. Since computers can’t deal with the emotional ambiguities of organic people, technology-based language must limit our ability to speak our feeling to them. That’s not all together a bad thing. We become a bit more bilingual, and we know that’s good for brain development and concept formation. This bilingualism however can engender pidgin language. Bilingual Spanish/English speakers may use Spanglish. Perhaps OS/English speakers will adopted Compuglish.

Perhaps the most glaring of these language corruptions springs from the screens of the Mac computer. That’s word high jacking. Macs used icons as switches or buttons displayed on the screen meant to activate something, usually to start a program running. The icon was a little picture that may have represented something about the program’s function, such as a typewriter picture to represent a word processor. Maneuver the cursor to the icon and press the button on the mouse and the program would start running. This is exactly what is meant by the word “icon,” an image through which one could access some dynamic. The word is taken from religious worship where icons were images, such as paintings or statues, representing deities or saints. By appealing to such images, the spirit of that entity would inhabit the image and be accessible to the supplicant. An icon was not just a symbol or emblem of something representative of an idea or category. It became, when called upon, the very thing it represented. The icon wasn’t worshiped; it was a connecting mechanism like a telephone that connects us via a direct hotline. So what is meant by an iconic song? “Iconic,” the adjective form of “icon,” suggests that the noun it modifies is in the nature of an icon. The saint or computer program that comes to us hears our prayers or inputs. The answer is that “iconic,” as it is used today, means nothing. Its incredible overuse and consistent misuse have rendered it completely without meaning. It is simply a mot du jour. Not using is the only fault; it leaves one out of step. Using it however means nothing, but it sounds good. While this is a very apparent dilution of meaning through the change of language, its use pales when compared to intentional misdirection. Beyond just emptying words of their meaning to leave a vacuous smiley face, words are being twisted further to elicit emotional arrays beyond the glib into the grim.

Avoiding meaning is not enough it seems. Today changes to our language are often meant to confound understanding while drawing out a reaction – often buying something, voting for someone, targeting something or just filling an empty ego with primal sounds. The dilution of the language paves the way for this. The use of buzz-words is often effectively calculated to fall on ears open to the sound of things, but deaf to any thought behind the sounds, thus bringing forth the desired reaction even when it conflicts with the best interest of the listener. There are many buzz-words in our cultural lexicons that do this. It’s seldom necessary to create new ones. Remember that the word doesn’t necessarily carry any meaning, and when it does, it might be unclear or twisted. These words make us feel some way, but what do they tell us?

Speakers shift their rhetoric from reason to passion by the choice, placement and repetition of words that sound good or scary or promising. Our intellect could be reached by these emotional appeals through reason, but that would require a little background knowledge and some reasoned consideration of ideas—reaction v. evaluation. We can be reached with a few well-chosen, incendiary words. A word such as “lying” needs no explanation. It’s bad and whatever is attached to it is bad too. So a lying newspaper is a bad newspaper. It doesn’t need to make sense and it doesn’t need to be true; it’s bad [full stop]. And as it has no real meaning, can it be true or false? If the words describing people and events have no real meaning, the veracity of those words has no foundation. There simply is no true or false—right or wrong, just linguistic sociopathy. Without some sense of truth or falsehood, some sense of right or wrong, no one can be held accountable for anything, because there is no accounting. Everything is what it is—empty moving sounds, ink on paper, vibrations in the air. This is argument without reason, winning by manipulating emotions through clever management of charged language—language without standards.

English is a rich, even precise language with something close to 50,000 words in use. College educated native speakers probably recognize between 25,000 and 30,000 words, if they are widely and well read, and use about half that number, less in speaking than writing. Overusing words therefore thins out the meaning that may have been intended, leaving only an imprecise impression. Worse, creating new words that don’t add anything more to our understanding of one another seems a bit of a disconnection with the whole point of language. Shouldn’t language attempt to transmit the complex abstraction and imagery of our thoughts as closely as possible with a clear comprehension and recreation in someone else’s thoughts? Other media can carry the abstractions, such as art and music, but these only stimulate dreamlike, abstract thoughts or feelings, by tapping into remembered feelings. Such thoughts and feelings can vary greatly, or may be absent, and are certainly not the same between two individuals. Words are for sharing ideas. Words hold and share power and clarity of thought when used with this intent. Using a word for its cuteness—for its entertainment value—seems like a petty vanity that discourages thoughtful persons from taking such a speaker or listener seriously. Moreover it opens the way for deception and manipulation. Language competence makes us more resistant to deception and manipulation, and empowers us to be thoughtful people in control of our own lives. Is the pen not mightier than the sword?

“But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.”

—George Gordon, Lord Byron

The Second Coming

William Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

——————————————————————————-

The classic example of Modernism lies in the line “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold,” which by extension declares that there is a moral or social “center” from which we have lost hold, spiraling into the darkness of the unknown, ungoverned by any moral core. This is Yeats’ response to the world of the First World War, a war among wealthy, powerful, rather degenerate and often incompetent European monarchies fought by everyone but them.

How appropriate then for our Post-Modernist time when the world is racked by oppression, conflict, discord and violence in a chaos of the Ongoing World War, a war among wealthy, powerful, degenerate and often incompetent world autocracies, many of whom make war on their own subjects.  If there ever was a moral center, it has faded into complete obscurity.

What “rough beast’s” hour is coming around now to save us? How long must we wait for anything to come from without to save us from ourselves?

———————————————

The great lesson of history, well recorded in our Humanities: We have learned nothing from history, except how to repeat it, as this phrase has often coined.

How progressed we are!

Do you remember when writers knew what their words meant and could use them in a way that produced clarity, even precision? Of course you don’t. Probably because such a time never really existed. Perhaps I should say—Because such a time probably never existed. If you do not see the difference in the two causal clauses, you may struggle a bit with what follows.

We have achieved an unintended consequential situation through almost universal education—a situation exacerbated by the science-technology-engineering-math emphasis in that education. I won’t belabor what I believe is the broadly detrimental effect of that emphasis, but I hope you will be able to discern its complicity in the changes we see in writing today. The situation is that more and more often I see uses of the English language that would have earned an editorial circling in any middle school English classroom as recently as 50 years ago. And yes, in a language that only had two changes of amount in the last 400 years, those being the loss of the second person singular pronoun and the loss of the final “t” on the end of singular third person verbs, the last 50 years represent a recency.

I hasten to add here that 400 years ago, the written English word sprung from an attempt to capture the English spoken word of the day. Greek and Latin came to Tudor England as print, and so were as formal and consistent as the few Greeks and Romans, who were educated enough and had the time to write, had written them. Ben Jonson wrote English words that sounded like the 16th century courtiers among whom he lived and for whom he wrote. William Shakespeare and Thomas Kyd wrote a broader language for an audience of all levels of wealth and education in London among whom they lived and for whom they wrote. They spelled and arranged the spoken language as they heard it every day.

And that brings me back to my point: we are now a 21st century loosely applying 16th century spelling and grammar strategies. Unfortunately as writers, many of us lack the command of all the variants of English as spoken by perhaps a billion people around the world. So modern writers cannot match Shakespeare who had only to negotiate English for the several hundred-thousands of Londoners.

On average, current writers probably have less than half of Shakespeare’s writing vocabulary, and of that, many writers are weak in the nuances among our rich vocabulary amalgamated from so many language sources. Writers tend to avoid many of the most precise words, because they haven’t heard them in contexts enough to feel comfortable using them. Worse however, some writers boldly misuse these words, usually to their detriment. Sometimes the misuses result in misunderstandings, more often they result in readers’ dismissal of an entire text as ill-informed or ill-conceived.

Evidence of our current lexical limitations is the trend toward “verbing”. Shakespeare observed that things in the world existed without names. Many of these as yet unnamed things were brought to light by the sciences and explorations of the times. Many of today’s writers have had to respond similarly. Such responses have been appropriate to the evolution of the language. As it happens however, “verbing” new words has become a trend, and trends can create blind inertia. Such inertia has taken us down to courses.

One course trends can take us is to general meaningless, the other to redundancy. Both courses lead to a diminishment of complete lack of clarity. In the first case, a word is applied to a new thing, but failing any prior knowledge of the use of the word, its inertia pushes it to further applications to other more or less related things. Eventually the word’s clarity of meaning begins to wander away from its original meaning into a cloud of impression. An historical expression of this type is the word “wonderful.” In Christianity, the resurrection of Jesus was, as witnessed, wonderful. That is, it was full of wonder, that which is exceptional for which we can have no explanation. We wonder how that could be. So how did it transmogrify into the expression, “I had a wonderful time?” Certainly this does not mean the speaker had a time so exceptional that he or she wonders how it could have happened. Yet It creates the impression that “wonderful,” in this case, is more courteous than the plain word “good.”

“Verbing” exemplifies our penchant for the appearance of creativity with the result of demonstrating a pointless effort. “Verbing” is simply using words, usually nouns, as verbs. There is a long history of it. “Housing” people or things almost certainly took the idea of providing a house or shelter for someone or something into a verb, “to house.” (how-s to how-z) So well established are some of these words that they can take on all the functions of verbs, actions, participles and gerunds, which may then act as verbs, adjectives and nouns respectively. Hence, the gerund “housing” can be a house or shelter provided for someone or something other than the provider, e.g. public housing. “Verbing” is easy; decline a noun. In most cases, “verbed” nouns replace currently used and understood words or phrases, while suggesting that there is some difference from that word or phrase. Is “gifting” then different from “giving” or is it just a stop on a pointless trend? Ironically, the word “give” appears to have evolved from the word “gift” through the dropping of the final “t.” English has a particularly rich vocabulary. It contains roughly 100,000 words depending on how you count various forms of a word. Why would we ever need to invent new verbs from old nouns when there are tens of thousands of old verbs we simply never knew about or used? “Verbing” does not show creativity; it show a poverty of vocabulary.

We misuse and invent words precisely because we have not been taught the use of nearly the numbers of words necessary to cope with the broad, deep and complex topics with which we must deal. We don’t hear enough words in the crib, at the dinner table, on the bus, in the school or office or laboratory. A hundred years ago, few people wrote anything that received a wide reading. Serious writing was academic or legal, and it was read by academics and lawyers. Journalism was “yellow,” sensational and often misleading. Literature was a luxury of a growing, but much smaller, educated middle class. But now writing is free and easy via the Internet, reading is done by the vast majority of the population, many of whom lack the knowledge or the cognitive skill necessary to distinguish the appearance of the language from its deeper conceptual content. The greatest amount of what appears in print, ink or electronic, is vapid, ill-informed and sloppy, roughly emulating the casual register of speech, applying 16th century coarsely phonetic spelling—for which spell-check is both cure and disease—and devoid of any sense of rhetoric that would make a complex idea comprehendible. It is because nearly everyone can write for the masses and neither the mass of writers nor the mass of readers have been adequately taught their language that our expectations have been so reduced that we can accept the use of ”then” for “than” in a respectable national press article. Perhaps knowing that most readers don’t know the difference, the writers and publishers don’t care about being precise.

The quality of writing has not changed over time, but the numbers of writers and the number of readers to whom they are exposed has mushroomed in the past 100 years or so. Education has changed however. The trend in education and in American society in general has been to broaden into the workers language and away from the language of scholarship. An education in which language, rhetoric, structure, semantics and syntax figured has always produced writing that is clear and precise. A lack of attention to the components of clear discourse or a simple lack of education has left thoughtful writing and reading out of the lives of many. We are left to wonder what would have precipitated from an alternative trend that would have broadened the language of the workers into the language of scholarship, if that were even possible. And assuming that such a trend was not a selected natural mutation, what agenda has promoted and supported the dumbing down of our language?

How handy is curbing the language in which citizens think for shaping the structure of a society. In the Middle Ages of Europe, landed gentry and the Church held wealth and power; aristocrats held the land and the Church held the word. Is it in anyone’s interest in the Post-modern Age not to have most, if not everyone, competently educated in the finer points of our language and its uses? And if it is not in their interest, how might they manage educational affairs to limit who has the access to such a powerful tools?

Perhaps we are progressed just as much as we are meant to be.

 

Putting Aside Woolf: Libertarian Suffering

In talking with my brother yesterday, I was trying to explain to him, a translator of German literature—some obscure 19th century romantic, in particular—why it is that I feel I can put a book aside without finishing it. I was perhaps preparing him for the possibility of not finishing his recent translation of Wilhem Rabbe’s “At the Sign of the Wild Man,” just in case. Putting aside a book seems one of those things that people either do, more or less frequently, or don’t do, shuddering with irreligiosity at the thought. And it is with some irony that I feel I may put a book aside or a short story or any other piece of writing, as I have put aside the very writer who gave me this permission on two occasions.

I put aside Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse, both by V. Woolf. I’m not saying I would never try Woolf again, but there are so many other things I would read in the stream of consciousness school of about the period. I have of enjoyed rather very more such alternatives—J. Joyce in fact. I have enjoyed The Dubliners, piecemeal and as a collection, and I am enjoying again Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man—my first reading 33 years ago I recall as enjoyable but I couldn’t say why or have recalled much about the book except that it took that very strong personal voice of narration. I bought my first copy of The Dubliners in Dublin in 1990, though I had read a couple of the stories long before, as have most English majors. And I enjoyed the study of the stories of the collection as a set in the lectures of Mark Sutton at Cambridge in 2011. Oddly and also perhaps ironically, while attending downstream at the colleges, I have twice had tea at the Orchard, the tea shop with tables, chairs and even stinging insects among the trees of an old apple orchard near Grantchester, Cambridgeshire, once a haunt of Rupert Brooke, Virginia Woolf, and others—and have come away from there enjoying much of Brooke’s works, though that liking became muted by a certain redundancy, but I have not felt the least inclined pick up Woolf again.

So why is it that I can so much enjoy one and dislike to the point of turning away the other of two of the greatest stream of consciousness writers of the English language? I wonder if it is the gender of the narrator. Yet if it were only the narrator’s gender and presumable my ability or inability to identify with it, then why would it be that I loathe, and do not finish, reading Henry James—I nearly gagged on the first half of The Portrait of a Lady before quitting it—and quite enjoy Edith Wharton? No, it is more than just gender. I wondered if it has to do with class. Yet my two all-time favorite writers are Thomas Hardy—well the classes are certainly in his novels, but in all their colors—and Jane Austin for whom class is not a factor, as anything in a lower class would, like a toilet, be well used but never mentioned, and anything in a higher class would have been—well—quite Olympian. No, the issue for my choosing not to finish a Woolf book is not one of social justice of gender or class.

I would, I believe, have to read a great deal of something that I don’t like to determine why I don’t like it. I might also have to read other writers I consistently disliked to see a common thorn. Suffering for the sake of analyzing that which makes me suffer? I think not. So I have taken Woolf’s advice, gotten I know not where, of putting aside a book I am truly not liking and moving on to something else. Yet here I am writing about this choice as if to justify it. Yes, there is a monitor in my reader’s heart that tells me to read on, finish what I’ve started. And I have. Reading The Last Temptation of Christ, for a class I imagine, was a nightmare. It was, all the same, the first book about which I could say, “I hated reading it, but I love having read it.” So, I will read on. Who knows but that I may discover a greatness in the last page, the last word. The very best things in life are those unlooked for, but not overlooked, after all. I’m just not looking for them in Woolf.

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