Friday, 5 July 2013

Mitchell's Law

Following my exposure to the aphorism –
“People with impoverished vocabularies live emotionally impoverished lives. People with rich vocabularies have a multi-hued palette of colors with which to paint their life's experience, not only for others, but for themselves as well.” (See Yeah Innit!)
A cat with virtually no vocabulary but lots
of wisdom to impart.
I responded to the friend responsible for alerting me to this piece of language fascism with:-
I had hoped that this is a joke - because if it weren't then it is absolute Tosh, and I use the word Tosh instead of Bollocks just to show that I have a multi-hued vocabularian palette of colours. It is how & when you use words that imbues language with artistry and meaning, tinged of course with the ability to be able to be sparing in the use of words . . the more I think of this the more speechless I get!
Of course I had fallen into the spider trap of serious involuntary kneejerk reactions, had ignored Sturgeon's Revelation that succinctly states "ninety percent of everything is crap" and had thereby wasted precious effort and energy in even ventilating my annoyance.

Or, to put it another way for those idiots of you with impoverished vocabularies, why waste my time even thinking about, let alone commenting on this garbage. But just occasionally, and Sturgeons Law notwithstanding, it is worth doing just a bit of unpacking and I did think that I ought to waste a little bit of time and investigate just two strands by:-
  1. Testing the fatuous assertion about rich vocabularies & impoverished lives, and
  2. Finding out who this new guru of aphorisms is and see if there are any other pearls of wisdom - or is it all really a sick joke.
Perversely taking the second task first, and you'll see why very quickly, I discovered that Anthony Robbins, this fount of daftisms is a 6’7” giant of a man who has made his fortune out of peddling aphorisms to audiences of willing dupes and has been “consulted by world leaders.” And if this last unsupported statement doesn't raise an eyebrow or two then a sample of his aphorisms should -
“The path to success is to take massive, determined action.”
“When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.”
“Why live an ordinary life, when you can live an extraordinary one"
“You can’t have a plan for your day, ‘til you have a plan for your life.” 
“In life, you need either inspiration or desperation.”
 “The past does not equal the future.” 
“You become what you do most of the time.”
And my two favourites -
“If you can't you must, and if you must you can.”
“If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten.” 
I could go on – and believe me Mr Robbins does – ad nauseum . I'm not even going to engage with any of the forgoing rubbish, but if you want to, try googling the fellow.

Lily is six, and has the limited
vocabulary of  an average  six year old.
Emotionally impoverished? Never!
Liam is just one, and has a vocabulary
that only he and (sometimes) his
Mum and Dad can connect with.
Emotionally impoverished?
I really don't think so . . .

Having dispensed with the second task, the first task is as simple or as complex as you wish to make it, and here I give you Mitchell’s Law which states that “It is intellectually acceptable to take a crass supposition and stretch it to breaking point with the express intent to expose the idiocy of the initial supposition without resorting to tedious and elongated argument.” The inverse of Mitchell’s Law is of course to take yourself too seriously!

So with the express intent of exposing suppositional idiocy - I assume that “impoverished” in the context of vocabularies means “not a lot of”, as against poorly represented by words with multiple syllables, or words that might have drifted in from “other” languages. Because lets face it without multiple syllables and “foreign” words you really are impoverished.

So grab these facts and rattle them around your colourless palates –

Unlike Mr. Robbins, the 15th century poet and playwright William Shakespeare was not a physical giant but he certainly was a literary one, and ignoring the arguments about the authorship of the plays attributed to him his output was extraordinary. He wrote 31,534 different words in his canon of works, which even allowing for his atrocious spelling and some pretty wild proper names (such as Yorick and Cymbaline for instance) is an extraordinary breadth of vocabulary. Just imagine the emotional overload he must have suffered.

Moving towards the slightly more mundane there are a total 593,493 words in the Old Testament and a total 181,253 in the New Testament (King James version I assume). In the former there are 10,867 unique words and in the latter there are 6,063. The preponderance of words in the Old Testament can apparently be attributed to lots of Proper Nouns – specific people being begat in particular places and so on. So with a mere 6,000 or so words an entire moral value system has been founded and described. Which does rather make you wonder why Shakespeare didn't become a religion; given the “multi-hued palette of colors” he has clearly employed to paint many life experiences. And if you were to have the temerity to use Shakespeare’s abundance of vocabulary as a yard-stick for emotional richness this does rather make Christianity look a little pallid.

As a sanity check (as if you need one!) there are 77,430 words in the Qu’ran, of which it is said that there are around 4,500 unique words derived from a mere 1,850 “root” words, which is even more colourless than the bible. Odd since they are both Abrahamic religions.

Compare and contrast all the above with the average novel which has a length of between 80-100,000 words and within which there likely to be between 5,000 and 10,000 unique and differentiated words.

I draw no conclusion from these facts – and neither should you, because if you try the hair on your head will drop out and you will grow beards under each of your kneecaps - or worse, you may be tempted to become a motivational speaker. 

So there you have it, leaving Bill Shakespeare out of the argument (and rightly so) you will need a vocabulary of somewhere between 4,500 and 6,000 words to describe a theosophical world view, but you will expend between 5,000 and 10,000 unique words in writing a thriller or a romantic novel.

Rather than subscribing to the idiotic view that People with impoverished vocabularies live emotionally impoverished lives I would far rather reflect on the paucity of words used by an ill –educated tramp and traveller. His name was William Henry Davies, and he used 107 words, of which 63 are unique, and ordered them into 7 rhyming couplets which read: -

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs 
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass, 
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight, 
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance, 
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can 
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this is if, full of care, 
We have no time to stand and stare

Leisure - W.H. Davies

You really can’t get more succinct than that.
The copper coloured Grey Crowned Crane pays homage to 
Venus, the morning star, during a cool a warm and lazy
Swazi Sunday and thinks "Cracking sunset once again!"

There really is something to be said for brevity


  1. love it, Steve doll !

  2. As they say in Wales, a smack in the teeth is worth a thousand words. And he has got BEEG teeth.

  3. You've got me going now! This is my current favourite collection of words ...

    We met
    under a shower
    of bird-notes.
    Fifty years passed,
    love's moment
    in a world in
    servitude to time.
    She was young;
    I kissed with my eyes
    closed and opened
    them on her wrinkles.
    `Come,' said death,
    choosing her as his
    partner for
    the last dance, And she,
    who in life
    had done everything
    with a bird's grace,
    opened her bill now
    for the shedding
    of one sigh no
    heavier than a feather.

  4. Yeah, he's a bit on a plonker that Anthony Robbins. A kind of reverse dwarf I think. Sorry was that sizeist!? Cheers


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