Saturday, January 29, 2011


I woke up early-ish to go into my internship today. I don’t normally go in on Saturdays, but this week is when our World Interfaith Harmony Week event is going to happen.

Fr Nabil is giving a speech as a part of it, and it has been my job to write the speech for him. I wrote a quick draft of it last Thursday before I headed out, but there were a few things Fr Nabil wanted changed. I changed them but he still seemed to be stumbling around the edges.

The English language as a enormous vocabulary, and it’s really too big to really get a handle on. The tongue’s been hanging around for a millennia and a half, badly copying words from other language and adding them to it’s own vocabulary. Sometimes it borrows the same word from the same language twice… or more. We took “castle” from the French, and then the French language changed and we also took “chateau.” It’s the same word, but because English is weird we kept both versions. A castle is the kind of building the French aristocracy lived in when we borrowed the word the first time. And a chateau is the kind of building they lived in by the second time around. The French don’t need both words, but English speakers did so we kept it.

Well that means we have an enormous vocabulary with obscenely specific grades of overtones. Our vocabulary is the biggest out of all languages in the world, and that messes with foreign English speakers. Fr Nabil speaks excellent English, but I was using words that he didn’t know, and he didn’t know how to pronounce them. It’s not like they’re spelled phonetically. So writing a good, concise, and eloquent speech for Jordanians to understand?

Harder then I would have guessed.

I met up with Eric for lunch. We had meant to get some other people together, but business happens and we couldn’t get nobody ‘til two. In the meantime we went to sharia el-reenboo’s R&B American Café and ate barbecue burgers with beef-bacon and a peanut butter milkshake. They didn’t really do a very good job with it alas, it was a fairly bland and incredibly greasy burger. I think that if I opened a restaurant and made good, competent, and subtly correct American food here I could make a killing.

After that at two we went to the Coffee Station to hang out with Simon and Tyler. And then I wrote you this in between hanging out and talking about what makes good fiction. I am not sure what makes it be good. What do you think it is? You should post a comment and tell me what you think.

I’ll catch y’all on the flip side!


  1. OK, I'll take a quick stab at that. First: science fiction - should be scientifically valid - or at least make you believe it could happen. Science often catches up with the good science fiction. Should be logical and easy to read. Asimov was the best! Second: British writers, particularly the older ones, use such eloquent language that it's a pleasure to read even when the subject is not too interesting. Third: the action genre – may be totally unbelievable but so full of exciting action that you can’t stop reading. OK, enough for now. ... couldn't get the ID thing to work .. Uncle Rich.

  2. For me, good fiction is an out-of-body experience. The writer gets you into a character's head, or world, or way of seeing the world, or even the writer's way of seeing the world that his/her characters exist in. It is analog knowledge--experiencing the world by analogy with someone else's experience. When the writing is good enough, you stop being aware of the artificiality and simply immerse yourself in the experience. --Uncle Robert