Why television writing has become the new home of verbal complexity – Oct. 7, 2016 Guardian article

An Oct. 7, 2016 Guardian article is entitled: “Why television writing has become the new home of verbal complexity: The high literary style of Woolf and Nabokov was long ago condemned as elitist and replaced by bland accessibility. But there is now a return to verbal complexity, not least in the unlikely medium of TV.”

Good article about storytelling!

An excerpt (which I find of interest as English is my third language, after Estonian and Swedish) reads:

“In this matter of speaking English as if it were a foreign tongue, we find a convergence between Nabokov and Sheldon; for Nabokov, English was a second language, and the reason David Lodge, in his own somewhat hyperbolic gesture, called him a “literary genius” was because there “is no other word with which to describe a writer who in mid-life became a stylistic virtuoso in a language that was not his mother tongue”. To be syntactically complex, then, is to be an outsider. It’s also to conflate, in American literary and popular culture, a set of terms – genius; smartness; the oddity and concealed force of Jewish identity in American life and its language (as in European culture); the unmistakable hint of elitism (Nabokov’s origins lay in the Russian nobility).”


As a child about age 5 or 6 in Montreal, having arrived at that city from Sweden in 1951, I was perplexed to realize one day that I had forgotten how to speak Swedish. I just remembered a few, random words, such as “trikka” (that’s a phonetic spelling), the Swedish word for “soft drink.”

As a child growing up in Sweden, as the child of a family that has escaped from Estonia in 1944 during the Second World War, I had gained a fluency in speaking Swedish. Then at the age of 5 we travelled to Canada. Our destination had been Toronto but when my mother had a look around, at the Montreal train station, she spoke to my father and they decided Montreal would be a great place to settle. And so from age 5 on I grew up in Montreal, where I also gained a rudimentary proficiency in the French language.

From time to time, I’ve thought about how my sense of what the English language is about differs from the sense of the language I would have had I learned English as my first language.


My first language is Estonian. My vocabulary is somewhat limited but has been growing – I much enjoy working at the task of growing my Estonian vocabulary – like a person growing a garden! I can speak Estonian and can comprehend spoken Estonian at a higher level of proficiency that I can read and understand written Estonian.

I am always working to increase my command of the Estonian language. I much enjoy getting better at this language. That being said, I am also aware, given my life experiences, of wider frames of reference which go beyond the worldview that is associated with the concept of: “I am an Estonian.”

From my perspective narrow nationalism, and an overriding focus on a person’s ethnic, religious, social, economic, political, or ideological identity, of any kind, is unappealing. That said, like anyone else, I have a belief system that has taken a strong hold of my life.

That belief system is focused on the value of evidence, and a strong interest in how language works – how it works to make sense of things, and how it works to influence our behaviour at a practical everyday level as manifested by the choice that we make in the course of the day to day experiences of our lives.


0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *