Eno before Eno…

Is what I thought when I read the song collector William Alexander Barret’s opinion, given in a lecture in 1877, on the song ‘Streams of Lovely Nancy’:

He is reported to have said that it ‘had neither style nor reason…as though someone had wantonly taken a pair of scissors, cut the lines out of a number of songs at random, and then put them together and made a song out of them’.

Folk Song In England, Steve Roud (p.91)

Then, when double checking I was right in thinking it was Eno the technique was connected with, I came across this by Austin Kleon: The (surprisingly long) history of the cut-up technique. Kleon discovers, via the writer Paul Collins, a form of cut-up (“cross-reading”) being used in the late eighteenth century.

 

The Internet and English Language

The most obvious novelties [of the Internet’s influence on English] relate to the use of punctuation to mark constructions, where many of the traditional rules have been adapted as users explore the graphic opportunities offered by the new medium. We see a new minimalism, with marks such as commas and full stops omitted; and a new maximalism, with repeated use of marks as emotional signals (fantastic!!!!!!). We see some marks taking on different semantic values, as when a full stop adds a note of abruptness or confrontation in a previously unpunctuated chat exchange. And we see symbols such as emoticons and emojis replacing whole sentences, or acting as a commentary on sentences – OUP blog

I have definitely noticed an increase in my use of exclamation marks when writing messages or texts; not as a way to convey anything particularly exclamatory but more as a way to convey that I’m not being too serious.

Quietening that Voice

I’m not a singer, or an artist of any kind, but in my own little realm of work I’ve tried to follow this principle: work at the edge of your range. A couple of times in my career I’ve tried to make myself write books based on what I already knew, and I just couldn’t do it. I have to be discovering something, trying something I haven’t tried before – finding out where my range as a thinker and writer stops. The downside of this habit is that sometimes I have written (and even published) things I didn’t know enough about. That has been embarrassing. But I really can’t seem to do things any other way, and in general I think it’s a good principle – at the edge of your range

I think this is not just a good principle but a wonderful one to follow. And (though perhaps not directly relatable) I will try to bear it in mind when writing about a topic I have an interest in, like technology, but not much grounding. It might quieten that voice I hear asking, “Who do you think you are?”