Sunday, May 8, 2011

advancing bloviation

Reading George Will's column on "The Wonders of Being 70," I enjoyed being in the presence of someone who could both think and write coherently. As ruminations go, I felt my ivories being tickled. There was no particular attempt to shove some let's-look-on-the-bright-side agenda or meaning down your throat -- or anyway I didn't feel it if it was there.

One of the passing facets that caught my eye and inspired some rueful agreement was the way in which bloviation seems to accompany advancing age.

On a side note, looking up the word "bloviation," I am astounded to find that the definitions are somehow unsettled. It seems to be a word that is used from time to time but has no assured place in the firmament of words. How can this be? The word is delicious and apt and rolls around like a hard candy in the mind's mouth. Surely it deserves a settled and assured domicile. Instead, it is currently relegated to the realm of something made-up and slang-y:

Bloviate: To discourse at length in a pompous or boastful manner. Etymology:
Mock-Latinate formation, from blow
Politicians, ministers, and barroom-stool baseball aficionados are all accused from time to time of bloviation. Everyone has a friend or enemy who might likewise be included.  But I have noticed that advancing age seems to nourish the flower.

Good and careful writers like Will adduce evidence to support their conclusions. But with age, the willingness to gather the facts and then make a pronouncement dwindles. The conclusion is enough. If you don't like it, find your own conclusion! The desire to convince and convert loses its force with advancing age and the result is a breaking of the old writing rule -- show, don't tell. It's as if the experience that produced the conclusion is enough to satisfy the bloviator and s/he simply rests on some previously gathered laurels -- the experience of this life. With energies waning, why bother to 'prove' the assertions? When did 'proof' ever prove anything?

And reading Will, I realized that I had to plead guilty, and do my time in the bloviation lock-up. It is not an attractive trait, spewing conclusions without supporting the case. It opens the door wide to being classed with many teenagers or high-profile idjits like Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck. And yet walking the walk that led to the conclusion takes too much energy, too much time. Aches and pains and a general slowing-down all demand an increasing amount of right-now attention. Weaving tapestries that might assure connections ... well, let someone else do it.

Bloviation. Guilty as charged. There may be jets and spurts of dismay that this should be the case, but, bit by bit, being guilty isn't all that bad.

No comments:

Post a Comment