I remember teachers telling us the horrifying story of Chinese girls who had tiny wooden boxes built around their feet, to try to keep their feet from growing. The end result was not beautiful, tiny feet; it was deformed, unusable pieces of flesh that could hardly be called feet. Is that what some of us are trying to do to language? Are we trying to fit it into tiny boxes that suit the constraints of what we know to be familiar?
There is nothing more beautiful than listening to someone who uses language like a young girl dancing around with reckless abandon. If the words you use convey your passion, if it lays bare the smallest corners of your heart, I am a captive audience. A beautiful dance does not have to be a series of perfect steps. The most beautiful dance to me is where the dancer gives over to the music, where rhythm and movement become one. In exactly the same way, the most beautiful prose is not a collection of grammatically perfect sentences but a flood of words laying bare the deepest secrets of a beautiful soul.
I was amazed to learn that Oscar Wilde also danced around with words, not caring that the voluptuous mounds did not fit into the constraints put on it by an elitist society. He told his publishers that they could ‘tidy up the woulds and shoulds, wills and shalls, thats and whiches’.
When you are writing your resumé or working on reporting data about the telephone usage in your company, you can polish your grammar to suit the mask you have on. But please, when you are writing something for me to read for pure enjoyment, lay bare your soul, bleed onto the paper (sorry Hemingway) and allow me to see your true face.