Sunday, 10 April 2011

Allegro ma non troppo

If I have any kind of individual writing style then it is a careless blend of the highfalutin' and the demotic or even racy; in other words, people may need a dictionary for one sentence and are offended by the coarseness of the next. This means that am often taken to task for faults in my writing, being condemned either for pretentiousness or crudity.

The atmosphere during many a convivial evening at Reginald's has become ill-natured or even violent when I have been forced to defend myself against attacks by Grumio or other soi-disant linguistic experts expressing their contempt for some trivial syntactical or stylistic error in something I have published.

Nearly always these strictures are totally unjustified; a typical example is the criticism of my excessive use of "selah", on the grounds that I do not actually know what the word means. This is unfair: if we all restricted our vocabulary to words of which we fully comprehend the meaning then discourse would be stifled and politicians, for example, would have to remain permanently mumchance (a pleasing prospect).

Anyway, in the case of "selah", there is every excuse for not knowing the meaning, for no-one really does. The Oxford Dictionary has:    

selah, exclamation
(in the Bible) occurring frequently at the end of a verse in Psalms and Habakkuk, probably as a musical direction.

This is not much help and is probably wrong: musical directions are not exclamations. So never mind what Habbakuk meant, I use it to mean any one of a number of things, for example: amen; what d'you think of that?; so there!; you know I'm right; QED; here endeth the lesson, or whatever.


[The title of this post really is a musical direction and has an interesting story behind it.] 

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