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Thoughtful Reader by Cassatt Premium Poster

Thoughtful Reader by Mary Cassatt

It is my understanding many people balk at the language of classic literature. A countless number deem it too formal and archaic. While it is true, writing is generally more formal than the vernacular, most of the language in novels are not too far off from the speech of the day. I do not believe Wilde, Dickens, Poe, and those of their ilk, were purposely magniloquent. Henry James, however, is questionable. Similarly, modern authors write utilizing popular speech, adjectives, and other modern stylistic and grammatical devises.

This has me pondering, is it always this way? When a 19th century contemporary read a 19th century publication was it far easier to comprehend then a 18th century one? More forward thinking; will our grandchildren or great-grandchildren be forced to read . . . say, Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code in school, likewise throw the book against the wall, complaining bitterly of its archaic prose and bombastic sounding dialogue? Hmmmmm . . . .

Or! Have we reached the nadir of colloquialism? Is it possible speech could become simpler?! What a horrifying thought! Or have all generations of people said the very equivalent about the succeeding cohort? What if we could pen a letter to our fore fathers a hundred and fifteen years ago, would they have the slightest idea of what we are trying to convey? Would it just be hopeless? Would they be amused or frustrated in trying to translate English over time, just as we are reading their legacies?

Vocabulary, lexicon, dialogue, speech, whatever you choose to call it; it is a live thing. It grows and unfurls, organically shifts and dies out, it twists and turns in unexpected ways, and blooms glorious in our quest for communication and understanding. Classic words and literature endure because it speaks of the human condition, the basis of us all. No matter what you wish to label it, be it an antediluvian adjective or modern slang; it perpetuates our language and thus, human knowledge.