Re: Lingua Franca Today

Subject: Re: Lingua Franca Today
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 15 Jan 2002 12:04:40 -0800

kelley wrote:

well, my mistake was to provide context/background that distracted. or, perhaps, the mistake was not to provide enough context/ background in order to forestall the concern that 'lingua franca' is inappropriate for technical writing. were this technical writing, i'd agree with you. it's not technical writing, however.

also, as i noted in a lengthier post, the writing is supposed to challenge. the point _is_ to force the reader to stop and slow down and think. this sometimes requires 'distracting' readers. it's a technique used in didatic writing.

Well, to each their own. But I wouldn't use "lingua franca" in academic or journalistic writing, either. In fact, I can't think of any circumstance in which I might use the term, except as a way to reveal character in fiction. So far as I'm concerned, "lingua franca" belongs to the class of words that I call "gingerbread" (as in the useless decoration on the gables of Victorian houses). That is, it carries no nuance that simpler words don't, and its main uses are to embellish needlessly and to stake a claim about the writer's knowledge. Neither of these purposes has much to do with writing, so far as I'm concerned (which may explain why I am no longer an academic; academics frequently are expected to stake a claim about their membership in the critical elite, especially if they're in grad school). Add this embellishment to the unavoidable technical vocabulary of the subject, and it doesn't just force the reader to slow down or distract; it threatens to derail thought altogether.

Whether to use this particular phrase or not is a small matter, of course. But I've gone into some detail about my reaction to it because II know that a large number of beginning writers are on the list. Many of these writers, especially if they're just out of academia, think that writing well involves adding gingerbread to every possible literary gable and eaves trough, and it's just not so. Even flowery or poetic language is more functional than that.

--
Bruce Byfield bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com 604.421.7177

"To bring the dead to life
Is no great magic.
Few are wholly dead:
Blow on a dead man's embers
And a live flame will start."
- Robert Graves, "To Bring the Dead to Life"


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RE: Lingua Franca Today: From: kelley

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