Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Are You a Trivia Buff, Too?

I find this truth to be self-evident: Not all men understand word order equally. What's less self-evident, but nevertheless equally true, is that journalists are the greatest offenders of word order, especially in understanding the correct location of the negative "not" in order to convey different meanings. This leads to one of my biggest pet peeves: when people intend to say something like: 'Not all women are beautiful.' but they actually say: 'All women are not beautiful.'. Oh, the world of difference it makes! Especially to beautiful women like my wife. More simply, this is a confusion of saying 'All are not' when one means to say 'Not all are'. Most people will trivialize my complaint. But not in the way I'm about to.

This was rarely, if ever, a problem when our youth began their intellectual life with the Liberal Arts. The trivium, which comprises the first three of the SEVEN LIBERAL ARTS, covers the arts of Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric. (and I believe they belong in that order; in time, nobility, and causality). In a word:

Grammar is concerned with the signification of things outside of us.
Logic is concerned with the true comparison of two or more distinct things or ideas.
Rhetoric is concerned with the communication of ideas and truths to others.

The trivium was the staple intellectual diet for all educated people in Western Civilization until the middle of the 20th century. Now, we have people who ought to know better (writers) making trivial errors such as in our example above: 'All women are not beautiful'. This violates all three ways of the Trivium: Grammar because it shows a lack of understanding of word order, Logic because it violates the rules of universal/particular predication, and Rhetoric because it fails to convey the intended meaning.

Unless, of course, they are trying to convey that they are a [bleep]ing idiot.

Tomorrow we'll look at those times when the violation of grammatical, logical, and rhetorical rules is not only acceptable, but admirable, and an integral part of life, liberty, and the happiness found in trivial pursuit.

No comments: