why e-prime?

2008/01/14

Why do I write in e-prime? Other than for intellectual amusement, no reason. Since I learned about it last week, the concept has intrigued me by its claim to force one to think more critically and communicate more coherently and honestly.

How can a serious constraint on one’s language improve its expressiveness? Does the taboo verb really carry with it so much deceit and misery?

All right, I will bite. So far, all my entries have conformed to e-prime’s tenets. Has it made me think more critically or communicate more honestly? I don’t know.

Skeptical about e-prime’s claims, my colleague Csaba became agitated trying to come up with a counterexample that would once and for all prove e-prime’s inferiority to regular English. Asks Csaba, How would you say “2×2=5 is a false statement” in e-prime? I admit, it took me a good minute to come up with an answer. How about “2×2=5 contradicts the axioms of arithmetics“, finally came the answer. Once again, e-prime made explicit an implicit framework of determining truth.

I wonder how e-prime would affect other systems of knowledge. I wonder if the world’s theologies and ideologies would survive the translation of their founding works into e-prime.

Language may play a key role in shaping thought (remember newspeak?). Besides e-prime, what other changes to English would make us better thinkers? Does the influence of e-prime wear off as new ways for ambiguity and implicit assumptions creep into the language?

I do miss progressive tenses though. Perhaps, I ought to never speak of unfinished actions–

As long as I continue writing in e-prime, I shall add the label e-prime to every post.

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