Stereotypes And Writing

I’m reading a million-page book by a Spanish writer who is trying to demonstrate that stereotypes are stupid. The book is written in endless sentences with dozens of subordinate clauses, parentheses, and strings of conjunctive adverbs. The language is flowery to the point of insanity.

But stereotypes are totally stupid, of course.

10 thoughts on “Stereotypes And Writing”

    1. “Flowery language gives me hives”

      It surely depends upon the particular language that is being read. I do not hesitate to hypothesize that many would agree with me, as I extract from my own humble experience in reading diverse tongues, that in terms of the style preferred by writers and readers alike, highly inflected languages create more pleasing and vivid impressions when the author endeavors to write in a flowery yet flowing and graceful style and that languages like Spanish or Polish sound rather dull and plodding when the manifold possibilities that inflection enables are hobbled by a simple style.

      For less inflected languages a plain style works better.


      1. gets up for some antihistamine to deal with the hives caused by Cliff’s flowery comment

        Sure, there are variations between languages. But I can’t imagine clarity of expression is ever a bad thing, plus floweriness is on a continuum and probably works best, like spice, when it’s carefully chosen for a particular purpose and used sparingly. Clarissa is clearly reading a technical book; I cannot imagine why it would be a good idea to obfuscate in such a text.

        This might be tangential but I’ve worked with graduate students for years and the hardest thing to come by for them is clarity of thought. Poor presentations and poor writing are 95% of the time a result of them struggling with the concepts they’re supposed to communicate, so they are trying to hide their struggle (often even from themselves) by burying it in verbiage. Basically, I posit that flowery language wielded without requisite skill (example: Clarissa getting a headache every few pages) is a result of underdeveloped, unclear thoughts — basically, the writer is “thinking out loud” though the challenges and we see it on the page as obfuscation.


        1. “I can’t imagine clarity of expression is ever a bad thing”

          The general rule in Europe is the further South and/or East a country is the more likely there is for a cultural linguistic rule in place that says (roughly): Something that anyone can understand is probably of limited value and clearly not important. Important ideas require important sounding language.

          Similarly the further Northwest goes to the other extreme: The more easy it is to understand the better! If it’s important you need to make it clear so that everybody can understand.

          “flowery language wielded without requisite skill”

          Any language wielded without skill can be painful to read. As I tell people, Polish style is great when it works but painful when it doesn’t and the risk of it not working is very high. English style is more dependable but more rarely gives the almost narcotic kick that well-executed intricate language can trigger.


          1. “Something that anyone can understand is probably of limited value and clearly not important. Important ideas require important sounding language.”

            Yep. That’s what my mother conveyed after reading (and dismissing with contempt) a few chapters of my book. The fact that she could understand my writing meant it couldn’t be good or worthwhile.

            I don’t understand what you mean by Polish or English style. I can imagine you need to write cookbooks, car-repair manuals, textbooks, as well as fiction and poetry in any language. The first three require clarity of communication regardless of language; for the latter two, pieces written in Polish can probably take a more ornamental style than in English, and that’s fine. But I don’t believe that history textbooks or Ikea manuals in Polish need to be any more flowery than in English.


            1. ” I don’t believe that history textbooks or Ikea manuals in Polish need to be any more flowery than in English”

              In purely practical terms, no. But culturally…. and newspapers here have history columns so that’s far too important a topic to treat with plain language.
              And… I’ve read some things that very directly translate English style into Polish and it’s awful in a way that’s hard to explain.


              1. I get that. I know that after 20 yrs in the US, whenever I read textbooks in my native language, they all sound really stilted and stuffy. The style is far removed from colloquial language, which is probably what you mean by “important things must be written in important-sounding language.”


  1. This is unrelated, but I had to vent somewhere. I joined this science-fiction discussion group last year. It’s always the same two people choosing books and it’s getting really dispiriting. For the umpteenth time we are basically reading a Bildungsroman (this time set in space), which, seriously, enough already. I am too old for that $hit. No disrespect to teenagers trying to find themselves, but I’m done with those stories and don’t understand how other adults are not.
    I want fiction that deals with adult problems and emotions and all sorts of darkness, but my tastes seem too macabre for the group. (These could potentially be addressed in literary fiction, but I can’t remember the last time I read a book of contemporary literary fiction that wasn’t insufferable: mopey or self-indulgent or patronizing). sigh Anyway, just needed to vent. Thank you!


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