This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Eternal truths: a rant.

This is from Tom Chivers in The Telegraph online, 1/6/14*.

 'Language is a set of conventions, not an agglomeration of eternal truths.'

Is it, really?

Oh rats.

Well, I suppose that language is a set of conventions. That's fair enough (though it doesn't account for the way language can be playful and creative. Or for its the habit of evolving).

Language isn't an agglomeration of eternal truths, though.

Oh, but I've always thought it was - or as near as it's possible to get to one, anyway. After all, language is a project we humans and our ancestors have been working on for...oooh, ages. A million years, perhaps.

It's even longer than a million years if you go back to the waggling of the first bees' bottoms, or the croak of the first frog.

Of course we can use language to lie, cheat and deceive, but the language itself, the words and the grammar which holds the words together, isn't that one long project in refining a method of communicating exactly what you want to get across?

Isn't that why language is so precious?

Isn't it why we care so much about it?

Doesn't language present to us the whole universe, as far as we can know it? Doesn't it hold the whole of ourselves (individual, family, tribe, nation, species) as far as we can show it?

Oh yes. I'll say that language is a agglomeration of eternal truths every time.

File:Yarn ball.jpg
photo by Lori from New York.

Word To Use Today: agglomeration. This word has been used in English since the 1600s. It comes from the Latin agglomerāre, to wind into a ball.

*That's an English date: 1st June, not 6th January.


  1. Ok, I will never look at a bee's butt the same again! I'll be thinking it's having a grand old conversation! Good for you bee!
    And yes, language is precious and eternal. You give that Chivers fellow what for!

    Oh, and I had to smile at the date explanation at the bottom!
    I'm always confusing people with the way I write my dates, but it is the correct way. Of course.
    P.S. I write mine the English way.
    Of course!

    1. Thanks, Jungles. Tom Chivers writes entertainingly and (I think) sensibly about language, but that WAS rather a sweeping generalisation.
      As for the dates, what can one do? I think I'd go for the logical solution and switch to writing 14/6/1 for the first of June 2014 - biggest unit first, as in numbers. That means no on 'wins', too. There. Is there a Nobel prize for tact, anyone?

    2. SO SORRY - a fat finger problem, there. I meant, of course, JINGLES!

  2. And I must tell you I"ve agglomerated many skeins of wool in my life! Very interesting...

    1. Ah. Of course, then you're just the person I've been looking for, Adele.
      I shall be in touch!