Comments Tagged ‘language’

  • Economy 1-14 (1 comment)

    • Comment by Paul Schacht on October 9, 2017

      See Harding’s note above, referencing Stanley Cavell, on the antecedent of which (what in versions A-B). Inquiries seems to me the likeliest primary referent, but the ambiguity is interesting. At some point, presumably in version C, what became which: Was Thoreau trying to narrow the range of possible referents, reducing ambiguity? Mode of life is a bit of a stretch as antecedent, since it’s a mismatch, in number, with they. But the pun on impertinent (= rude but also beside the point, hence the follow-on very natural and pertinent) is a reminder that you can never rule out the possibility that Thoreau has deliberately crafted his writing with an eye towards increasing, rather than reducing, the number of ways he can be read.

  • Solitude (1 comment)

    • Comment by Kristen Seaman on April 4, 2016

      This might be my favorite line of Thoreau’s thus far. I feel that he perfectly described the separation of the minds that every individual feels, while addressing the question of loneliness due to his isolation. I found this entire paragraph to be very thought provoking, as he brought in a lot of different elements to the conversation.

      I found it particularly interesting when he addressed the issue of enormity in the universe. I enjoyed the quote, “This whole earth which we inhabit is but a point in space. How far apart, think you, dwell the two most distant inhabitants of yonder star, the breadth of whose disk cannot be appreciated by our instruments? Why should I feel lonely? is not our planet in the Milky Way?” I felt that he perfectly put in perspective the isolation that our planet as a whole experiences. In retrospect, living outside of the village is merely a few hundred feet of distance, compared to the immense distance between all aspects of the universe that we are a part of.

      One will never find another man who completely understands his mind. Therefore, isolation will always exist. Without isolation of the minds, we would lose the ability for original thought. I felt that he brought in the positives of isolation through this paragraph, and brought to light a new perspective to loneliness.

  • Sounds 12-22 (1 comment)

    • Comment by Paul Schacht on October 1, 2015


      On Thoreau’s spelling, see the following explanation from the online project, “Information Infrastructure: Methods of Information Transfer in Nineteenth Century Wisconsin”:

      “Until 1835, when the Milwaukie Post Office was established under Postmaster Solomon Juneau, there was no standard way to spell the name of the city. Juneau preferred ‘Milwaukie,’ so that is what he used. Between 1833-1843 the name appeared on maps, in newspapers, and in correspondence with a variety of spellings, including Miliwaki, Milawakee, Milwaki, Milwaukee, Milwalky, and Milwauk, as well as the version favored by Postmaster Juneau, a Democrat.

      “In 1843, Josiah A. Noonan, a Whig, was elected postmaster. Postmaster Noonan preferred the spelling ‘Milwaukee,’ and changed all date stamps to reflect his preference. Noonan lost the office to Juneau in 1849, and with a Democrat back in charge the name reverted to ‘Milwaukie’. Two successive postmasters retained that spelling, but Noonan regained the office in 1853 and once again the name was changed to ‘Milwaukee’ on the date stamps.

      “1857 saw another change, as Noonan was defeated by Democrat J. R. Sharpstein. Although Sharpstein held office for only one year, he succeeded in changing the date stamps back to ‘Milwaukie’ once again. The change stayed in effect until the end of 1861. Meanwhile, in 1860, the new Republican party, successor to the Whigs, had soundly defeated the Democrats in most areas of the city’s political arena. In 1862, the name was changed for the last time. Through use by exclusively Republican postmasters over several decades, Milwaukee has become the accepted, ‘non-partisan’ spelling used today.”

  • Higher Laws (1 comment)

    • Comment by Paul Schacht on March 14, 2016

      Sandra Harbert Petrulionis examines the political uses of this phrase in “The ‘Higher Law’: Then and Now,” Thoreau Society Bulletin 262, Spring 2008 (5-7), available at the Internet Archive

  • The Ponds 18-34 (1 comment)

  • Baker Farm (1 comment)

    • Comment by Kristen Seaman on April 18, 2016

      I feel that this line perfectly demonstrates the arrogance that Thoreau feels towards John and his wife. He is comparing the water they drink to gruel. I read this line as, “Life here is built upon something as disgusting as gruel, therefore the life is equally as disgusting and of small value.” By comparing the water, a necessary component that is the source of life, to gruel, he is, in essence, saying that the entire life these people have built is disgusting to him.

      His arrogance is furthered in the coming lines, when he states “I am not squeamish in such cases where manners are concerned.” He is basically patting himself on the back for not becoming sick at a drink of their water, and showcasing how well-mannered he is. In actuality, though, there is nothing noteworthy about not offending a family’s livelihood. It is nothing to boast of, and is instead a simple aspect of being a decent person. However, due to his arrogance, Thoreau thinks it something to be proud of.

  • Economy 82-97 (3 comments)

    • Comment by Paul Schacht on July 27, 2015


      @walterharding identifies a sentence in “The Ponds,” par. 19, as “The shortest sentence in W.”: “Sky water.” “Furniture!” is even shorter.

      Comment by Paul Schacht on April 1, 2016

      Rubbish! 🙂

      Seriously, though, I stand by my claim here.

      An exclamatory sentence is a kind of sentence, not a fragment, and can consist of a single word. It needn’t contain a verb.

      Comment by Paul Schacht on April 4, 2016

      Seriously? One sentence?

      (Another two sentences there, pal. Sorry.)

      It would be odd indeed not to consider Pause! as a complete sentence. It’s identical in form to sentences such as Leave! and Stop! All three are verbs in the imperative mood, with an implied subject of [You]. The case of Avast! is a little different. It compresses a Dutch expression that (as I read the dictionary) originally contained both a subject and a predicate into a single English word that can’t take a subject and therefore doesn’t operate as a verb. But used as the only word in a sentence, it enables the sentence to pass one of the typical tests for sentence-ness. It expresses a complete thought. Oxforddictionaries.com classifies it as an exclamation.

      But the key word in the antepenultimate sentence of that last paragraph is typical – as typically is the key word in the oxfordictionary.com definition you point to: A set of words that is complete in itself, typically containing a subject and predicate…

      English permits many atypical sentences. (Hooray! I hear Thoreau say to that. Interesting problem: If he were to say, Youbetcha! would that be a one-word sentence or a three-word sentence?). There can be sentences with neither subject nor predicate and sentences that are only “complete” when regarded in context, as in the second of these two:

      – Did Thoreau build his chimney inside the cabin or outside?
      – Inside.

      We agree on one thing: Furniture! is no longer than Pause! and Avast! (except in word-length). Of course, the latter two are being reported by Thoreau as spoken by someone other than himself – a distinction worth noting, I think. But they are indisputably “sentences in Walden,” so in some sense it would erroneous to suggest, as I originally did, that Furniture! holds the prize of “shortest sentence” by itself.

      By the way, to put a smiley in your post, just type it, like so: :)

      CommentPress will convert it to an icon. Is a smiley a sentence? No. But that “No” is. 🙂

Source: http://commons.digitalthoreau.org/walden/comments/tags/language/

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