Revision. Not fun Worse in many ways than the exams themselves! You spend hours, days, weeks going over everything, not really knowing whether you know the information or not, and what for? An hour or two sat in an exam room, where your hard work either pays off, or it doesn’t. However, it must be done, and is what I should be doing right now 😛
Anyway, whilst revising for my exam tomorrow (Pragmatics and Semantics….oh joy :/) I found myself trying to make the subject more interesting and more specific to my interests. I enjoy writing poetry…I use it as a way of clearing my head, saying what I can’t say out loud. I often look back at it and wonder where it came from as it is very spur of the moment. However, for all its ‘I’m writing what I want to say’ it often sounds very unlike speech. This is due mainly to my use of language. This is where the revision material comes in!
Take the phrase ‘The air is tranquil, the sounds are of freedom, of free spirits and of hope’. What does freedom sound like? What does this mean? It is using something we know and are familiar with to explain something more abstract and unknown. We often analyse a situation through what we hear – a cry out could be pain or hurt, thunder is warning of a storm, and silence or the birds chirping in the trees often signifies calmness and no obligations. Therefore, when I say ‘the sounds of freedom’ I refer to the lack of noise and calmness.
What about ’emotions are so fickle’ ? How can emotions have human attributes when they are abstract concepts? We use metaphors to personify, and make concrete, concepts which we cannot understand. By using human attributes that we understand, we make sense of our world. This metaphor can be extended throughout a piece of writing once it has been accessed – describing emotions as ‘desperate’ for example.
Sorry if I’ve lost anyone by now…I think my revision is taking over slightly 😛 But it does highlight one way that writers/poets capture our imaginations. How about this –
Playing at the corners.
Teasing, waiting to fall.
You try all you can to control it,
But soon the light dances off your cheeks.’
The whole thing acts as if it were referring to something alive – the use of ‘playing’, ‘teasing’, ‘waiting’ all are human qualities. But it’s not a person that is being referred to. The use of this metaphor makes the subject more interesting, almost giving it a sense of magic. Using the verb ‘dance’ with respect to light describes a mood. However, translate that line into another language, and the likelihood of it being understood in the same way is slim. Understanding is socially dependent, and it is through this shared culture that we understand what is meant here. There is no direct indication of what is being referred to, but somehow it seems obvious.
I could go on and on with this…I have pages and pages of material, each one containing many examples like those above…but I don’t think I need to. For two reasons – one, everyone would get very bored by that point and wouldn’t want to read anything else I ever write 😛 And two, more importantly, we all know this already. Every time your English teacher asked you to write something (i.e. a short story, or a poem) you subconsciously looked for ways to make it interesting. Using language creatively is part of being human, as it makes life more varied and it keeps other people’s attentions when we speak. Without it, life would be very dull 😛