Over time, the fortress crumbled and the crows took over, fighting battles of their own over the parapets. Ordinary people, no longer as valiant or as bloodthirsty as the ones who had thundered across the hills, built houses, cheery green and yellow boxes everywhere. The railroad men drove their tracks boldly right below, and people climbed on and off the train as if nothing had ever happened.
But the stationmaster always shook his head when asked about tours up the hill.
“Up there? Nar. I never goes up there.”
As the 4:17 started to chug its way, his feet felt the vibrations. Felt them as always, continue long after the cars had blurred across the fields, continue underneath, as if something there was just waiting.
*Based on a 100 word flash fiction prompt from Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, based on this photo by Sandra Crook.
My father was a consummate BS artist. He would tell stories about fellow soldiers pulling scams when he was in Germany in the 1950s or describe 45-minute solos taken by jazz musicians in the smoky nightclubs of Detroit. The exaggeration was part of the atmosphere. He could talk about going to the bakery at the Food Lion in Sarasota, and end up with a lengthy yarn which included fake southern accents and mishaps about Danish crates that fell off the delivery trucks.
See, right there, I’ve already lied.
What We Bloggers Do
Fellow blogger fivedotoh suggested a provocative question for today’s post:
How do you feel about people who always seem to exaggerate when relating a story? Do you equate embellishment with lying? As a blogger, when, if ever, is stretching the truth, other than when writing fiction, permissible?
Of course, I immediately thought of my dad. I also thought about a news story I read the other day about Duke University. I was chewing over using it for this post but hesitating because maybe it would be too snarky. How about both?
My answer to this question is that there are Memoir Facts, Sarcasm/Snarky Facts, and then there are Fact Facts. As a blogger, I would feel entitled to use all three, yet in a way that the reader can clearly tell the difference.
I Only Lie 25%
At home, I occasionally find myself exaggerating, usually to win an argument with my spouse. I will stop and correct myself, if I think it’s particularly unfair, although I’ve also been known to keep track and write down the number of indiscretions by the other person, which may win an argument but is not conducive to marital harmony. Now, if it’s a story about a particularly rude other person driving, everyone knows that you must exaggerate those stories because of the risk to your car and your very life. These are Memoir Facts which are highly likely to contain exaggeration. I went back and looked at some of my memoir blog posts, and I calculated. Continue reading “Speaking of BS…”
I’m jumping on the bandwagon of shade. I am piling on the hate. I am a little chagrined to be joining such a chorus since, generally speaking, I try to avoid the herd mentality, but when it comes to dissing books, I can’t help it.
There’s a conversation going around about self-proclaimed expert tidier Marie Kondo and her aversion to anyone owning more than 30 books. Specifically….
She recommends keeping no more than 30 books in your collection, to be exact….”The idea is that if it sparks joy for you, you must keep it even if I go over to your home and I say, ‘Do you really want to keep this book?’ If you feel that it sparks joy for you, keep it with confidence.”–from “Marie Kondo Approved Ways to Get Rid of Your Books”
I am a rule follower. I also like to know what the rules are, so I can break them. Stealthily, of course. But rules are what keeps society from going to hell in a handbasket, right? Traffic rules keep cars from running into each other or over pedestrians *Rome coff* . Please wash your hands before cooking my dinner, Mr. Guano Salesman. No hitting below the belt. No cutting in line.
Which is why I was particularly torqued off when I came across a blog post–in my WordPress reader no less–disdaining “Grammar purity” as a Ponzi scheme.* The essence of the argument is that “we” (English speaking-society) came up with the rules…. (ergo “we” can break them?) Dictionaries are arbiters of such rules, but looking in dictionaries shows that there is flexibility (ergo they aren’t really rules). Manuals such as The Chicago Manual of Style and the Associated Press Stylebook are “style guidelines, not grammar rules.”
These “rules” have shown impressive staying power. From cocktail parties to kitchen tables, these seemingly fascinating bits of grammar trivia have been repeated over and over, in some cases for centuries.
Too bad they’re not true.
Standard Written English is not just a Style Guide
My mom would often quote: How do I know what I mean until I see what I say? when we talked about writing around the dinner table. Which we did sometimes, oddball family that we were. That expression immediately came to mind when the lovely Mr. Fandango suggested a blog One-Word Challenge using the word “mean.” I take heart that I did not think about someone performing acts of cruelty, although I cringe slightly that I also didn’t consider anything statistical which, after all, is right up on my blog masthead.
But that’s writing, isn’t it? We don’t really control it.
It turns out E. M. Forster is the source of the original saying, and that he was misquoted. He said “think,” not “mean,” which is a curious distinction.
How can I tell what I think till I see what I say?
–E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel