My good and excellent virtual friend Jeroen, a stalwart of my discourses, if not perhaps of this blog, sent me this email letter about 'art' (here referred to as "the A-word"), which I take as part of the Republic of Bloggers. I shall reply later this week, and other replies are always welcome too.
I do hope this e-mail finds you well. It has been rather a while since I e-mailed you, and I believe we were in a discussion that sadly I lost track of in some bout of work. I have been enjoying what tweets you sent and thought perhaps I could hook in on your current venture to start some new train of thought? You were interested in at some point making the e-mails public, so I will write with this in mind, if you might be interested again.
Of course the subject is: the A-Word. I have now sworn to never say it again.
Naturally it is merely a game I play "to not say it", but it is an interesting game. So far the only problem I have had not saying the A-Word is in discussing the A-Word, and even that has never come about without me trying to explain what I am doing. More interesting is people's general reaction of some bewilderment and lack of understanding, eerily frequently followed by them not using the word either, as-if that is what the game of conversation now demands. I feel this symbolises exactly what I find so unappealing and destructive about the word; and it is what made me hope to hear your thoughts: I think the word is almost entirely magic, which overshadows what small amount of use it has. I suspect the word is mostly used to debate the word itself; and to imply importance (or lack of it) in a tremendously abstract sense.
Is it possible that it is not so much a question of what the A-Word is, but rather why the A-Word is? I think I come to this from seeing the usage of the word in Shakespearean English, to mean a learned skill, which I will acknowledge is hard to replace and is an important concept (for instance, "the physician's A in healing people"). In a sense it describes something external to itself there; and the 19th century started using it as a general form of products of such skills still did. Is it a 20th century invention to think of the word (hitherto-fore never needed through-out centuries of incredible craftsmanship) as meaningful in itself? To the point where works that are called so are referential to the thing itself? As-if it were a cult, with its own rites, behaviours and customs, which slightly maliciously has drawn into itself (for no required reason) past works, branded by its own name, so that it can never truly be obsolete?
I see this perhaps not so much from the angle of "what words ought to exist", and rather from the idea that some words (concepts, rites) are particularly successful at self-replication, regardless of importance. An actual meme, if I you will.
My experiment (and joy) in playing the game of not saying it is seeing whether I use the word because it exists and I am tempted to use it, involuntary thereby validating an archaic concept from the 20th century (that has no bearing to the history of ages)... or whether the word has some use I cannot anticipate and find myself unable to express my thoughts at some point.
I would be curious to hear about your own ventures of the word,
And wishing you well,
My reply will appear later this week.