Sunday 16 August 2020



what’s in a name?

A friend sends me this:

What is it: A painting? A photograph? A beautiful example of photographic art? Of art photography? Or all of these?

The Dutch poet C.O. Jellema wrote a series of poems called ‘Reflections on Ruysdael’ in which he reflected on the nature of art – and the art of nature. ‘Freed to be otherwise – amazing art:/memory in a mirror without glass’. 

The series ends with a poem called Epilogue. It contains the remark ‘kunst kan natuur niet maken’. This is a double-take. It means both art cannot make nature and nature cannot make art. Dutch has a freer word order than English. It also makes it impossible to translate into English.

German has a case system for nouns, so the subject/object dichotomy is solved if the noun is a masculine one: Die Sonne liebt den Mond = Den Mond liebt die Sonne. Endings on words change their shape. So the study of how this takes place in a language is called morphology and is interested in word-classes. The study of position in a sentence has to do with syntax – it deals with parts of speech. 

English students often have no inkling that grammar is a pair of Siamese twins. Do I mean students of English or students from England? Both. What’s in a name? Same answer.

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