When I was trained as a journalist, as a race-relations reporter in Nashville covering the end of the civil-rights movement, we were strictly forbidden to use the first-person pronoun. There was kind of an electric charge around it. To come out from hiding and use the word 'I' carried a lot of fright for me.
The reason the mass of men fear God, and at bottom dislike Him, is because they rather distrust His heart, and fancy Him all brain like a watch. (You perceive I employ a capital initial in the pronoun referring to the Deity; don't you think there is a slight dash of flunkeyism in that usage?).
I still use the pronoun she for my publicity materials, and for mainstream media stuff, for two reasons: the first is that I do a lot of work in public schools, and I want those young women and girls to see every kind of she there can be. I want them to see my biceps and my shorn hair and shirt and tie and for some of them to see me as a possibilityI want them to see me living outside of the boxes, because they might be asphyxiating in their own box and need to see there is air out here for them to breathe, that all they have to do is lift the lid a little.
They found the corpse in the closet of Alcide's apartment, and they hatched a plan to hide his remains." Eric sounded like that had been kind of cute of us. "My Sookie hid a corpse?" "I don't think you can be too sure about that possessive pronoun." "Where did you learn that term, Northman?" "I took 'English as a Second Language' at a community college in the seventies.
In conscious life, we achieve some sense of ourselves as reasonably unified, coherent selves, and without this action would be impossible. But all this is merely at the 'imaginary' level of the ego, which is no more than the tip of the iceberg of the human subject known to psychoanalysis. The ego is function or effect of a subject which is always dispersed, never identical with itself, strung out along the chains of the discourses which constitute it. There is a radical split between these two levels of being - a gap most dramatically exemplified by the act of referring to myself in a sentence. When I say 'Tomorrow I will mow the lawn, ' the 'I' which I pronounce is an immediately intelligible, fairly stable point of reference which belies the murky depths of the 'I' which does the pronouncing. The former 'I' is known to linguistic theory as the 'subject of the enunciation', the topic designated by my sentence; the latter 'I', the one who speaks the sentence, is the 'subject of the enunciating', the subject of the actual act of speaking. In the process of speaking and writing, these two 'I's' seem to achieve a rough sort of unity; but this unity is of an imaginary kind. The 'subject of the enunciating', the actual speaking, writing human person, can never represent himself or herself fully in what is said: there is no sign which will, so to speak, sum up my entire being. I can only designate myself in language by a convenient pronoun. The pronoun 'I' stands in for the ever-elusive subject, which will always slip through the nets of any particular piece of language; and this is equivalent to saying that I cannot 'mean' and 'be' simultaneously. To make this point, Lacan boldly rewrites Descartes's 'I think, therefore I am' as: 'I am not where I think, and I think where I am not.
Words are like that, they deceive, they pile up, it seems they do not know where to go, and, suddenly, because of two or three or four that suddenly come out, simple in themselves, a personal pronoun, an adverb, an adjective, we have the excitement of seeing them coming irresistibly to the surface through the skin and the eyes and upsetting the composure of our feelings, sometimes the nerves that can not bear it any longer, they put up with a great deal, they put up with everything, it was as if they were wearing armor, we might say.
A good poem is a tautology. It expands one word by adding a number which clarify it, thus making a new word which has never before been spoken. The seedword is always so ordinary that hardly anyone perceives it. Classical odes grow from and or because, romantic lyrics from but and if. Immature verses expand a personal pronoun ad nauseam, the greatest works bring glory to a common verb. Good poems, therefore, are always close to banality, over which, however, they tower like precipices.
I think a lot of my interest in history now isn't so much in places and names and texts and public figures, but more in examining all the nuances and idiosyncrasies of particular stories of everyday people. And if that doesn't happen, then I usually transplant myself and my own stories to a particular historical event. Which is why you'll see me, the first person pronoun, interacting in a song about Carl Sandburg, or you'll find my [sic] interacting with Saul Bellow. It's sort of a re-rendering of history and making it my own.
Does trying to understand the universe at all betray a lack of humility? I believe it is true that humility is the only just response in a confrontation with the universe, but not a humility that prevents us from seeking the nature of the universe we are admiring. If we seek that nature, then love can be informed by truth instead of being based on ignorance or self-deception. If a Creator God exists, would He or She or It or whatever the appropriate pronoun is, prefer a kind of sodden blockhead who worships while understanding nothing? Or would He prefer His votaries to admire the real universe in all its intricacy? I would suggest that science is, at least in part, informed worship.
When Your Life Looks Back, When your life looks back- As it will, at itself, at you-what will it say? Inch of colored ribbon cut from the spool. Flame curl, blue-consuming the log it flares from. Bay leaf. Oak leaf. Cricket. One among many. Your life will carry you as it did always, With ten fingers and both palms, With horizontal ribs and upright spine, With its filling and emptying heart, That wanted only your own heart, emptying, filled, in return. You gave it. What else could do? Immersed in air or in water. Immersed in hunger or anger. Curious even when bored. Longing even when running away. "What will happen next?"- the question hinged in your knees, your ankles, in the in-breaths even of weeping. Strongest of magnets, the future impartial drew you in. Whatever direction you turned toward was face to face. No back of the world existed, No unseen corner, no test. No other earth to prepare for. This, your life had said, its only pronoun. Here, your life had said, its only house. Let, your life had said, its only order. And did you have a choice in this? You did- Sleeping and waking, the horses around you, the mountains around you, The buildings with their tall, hydraulic shafts. Those of your own kind around you- A few times, you stood on your head. A few times, you chose not to be frightened. A few times, you held another beyond any measure. A few times, you found yourself held beyond any measure. Mortal, your life will say, As if tasting something delicious, as if in envy. Your immortal life will say this, as it is leaving.
Marriage, in what is evidently its most popular version, is now on the one hand an intimate 'relationship' involving (ideally) two successful careerists in the same bed, and on the other hand a sort of private political system in which rights and interests must be constantly asserted and defended. Marriage, in other words, has now taken the form of divorce: a prolonged and impassioned negotiation as to how things shall be divided. During their understandably temporary association, the 'married' couple will typically consume a large quantity of merchandise and a large portion of each other. The modern household is the place where the consumptive couple do their consuming. Nothing productive is done there. Such work as is done there is done at the expense of the resident couple or family, and to the profit of suppliers of energy and household technology. For entertainment, the inmates consume television or purchase other consumable diversion elsewhere. There are, however, still some married couples who understand themselves as belonging to their marriage, to each other, and to their children. What they have they have in common, and so, to them, helping each other does not seem merely to damage their ability to compete against each other. To them, 'mine' is not so powerful or necessary a pronoun as 'ours.' This sort of marriage usually has at its heart a household that is to some extent productive. The couple, that is, makes around itself a household economy that involves the work of both wife and husband, that gives them a measure of economic independence and self-employment, a measure of freedom, as well as a common ground and a common satisfaction. (From "Feminism, the Body, and the Machine")
Not long ago, I advertised for perverse rules of grammar, along the lines of "Remember to never split an infinitive" and "The passive voice should never be used." The notion of making a mistake while laying down rules ("Thimk, " "We Never Make Misteaks") is highly unoriginal, and it turns out that English teachers have been circulating lists of fumblerules for years. As owner of the world's largest collection, and with thanks to scores of readers, let me pass along a bunch of these never-say-neverisms: Avoid run-on sentences they are hard to read. Don't use no double negatives. Use the semicolon properly, always use it where it is appropriate; and never where it isn't. Reserve the apostrophe for it's proper use and omit it when its not needed. Do not put statements in the negative form. Verbs has to agree with their subjects. No sentence fragments. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out. Avoid commas, that are not necessary. If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing. A writer must not shift your point of view. Eschew dialect, irregardless. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction. Don't overuse exclamation marks!!! Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents. Writers should always hyphenate between syllables and avoid un-necessary hyph-ens. Write all adverbial forms correct. Don't use contractions in formal writing. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided. It is incumbent on us to avoid archaisms. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is. Steer clear of incorrect forms of verbs that have snuck in the language. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixed metaphors. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky. Never, ever use repetitive redundancies. Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing. If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times, resist hyperbole. Also, avoid awkward or affected alliteration. Don't string too many prepositional phrases together unless you are walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Always pick on the correct idiom. "Avoid overuse of 'quotation "marks."'" The adverb always follows the verb. Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague; seek viable alternatives." (New York Times, November 4, 1979; later also published in book form)