In recent weeks, I helped one of my children apply to a competitive program at a local school.
Having gotten distracted from the open application page while it was in progress, I returned to my desk to what is now my favorite internet error message ever yet received. How often do we enjoy those, really?
And here it is, lest you appreciate it as much I do:
“Close this page and re-launch it from whence you came,” they advise.
Close this page and re-launch it from whence you came
Yes, that’ll do, pig.* That’ll do.
I try to hold back some of the force of my tidal waves of opinion from my dear children, attempting to allow them the latitude to be whomever they wish, and offering them the reins of their own educations whenever I can get them to take them. Boy oh boy, however, am I tickled pink by this turn of phrase.
I wouldn’t quite urge my kid to enroll in a program he wasn’t keen on because of it, but… Let’s just say I’m sorely tempted.
The pickiest grammarians amongst us will now argue about the redundancy of “from whence;” the preposition is actually implied by the whence itself, of course. I count myself amongst those who hold, though, that, if Shakespeare used it, it can’t be too offensive to the English language as a tool of self-expression.
The Bard did, in fact, write both of these:
“From whence at pleasure thou mayst come and part…” (Sonnet 48)
“Let them be whipp’d through every market town till they come to Berwick, from whence they came.” (Henry VI Part 2, Act II Scene 1, right before Buckingham enters)
Samuel Johnson, however, was disgusted by this combination of preposition and adverb, calling it a “a [vicious] mode of speech” according to Merriam-Webster. But, while I, too, suffer a regular urge to be a purist, there’s no denying the fact that a joyful and exuberant use of language is more fun and more functional than a purely pedantic one.
Golly, gee whiz! My heart flutters at the thought of an institution where even the I.T. department leans toward the use of correlative adverbs of place.
As a dilettante student of German, it’s not unusual for me to find myself peeved by statements from other English speakers—on DuoLingo or in classrooms—complaining that English lacks “words like this” when we hit a woher vs. wohin scenario. My father is an attorney, though, and my reading has been wide enough that I’m well aware of our own native heretofores, hithers, and hences.
Most of us don’t use these very precise words day-to-day, but they are there for us whenever we want to wallow in the luxuriant richness of their specificity.
I don’t really wish for all English speakers to return to any “better” version of our language that may once have been. Utility can’t be discounted, and there’s a marvelous natural leveling that occurs with any widely used tongue. What needs to be said will be said, and popular languages also tend to engender rich poetical and literary works.
Though I’m barely conversant on the subject, I fully believe that rap music represents the most perfect modern corollary to Shakespear’s populist success in his own era. When it comes to using language thoughtfully, and with intent, Run-DMC said it lyrically in their 1987 single:
“It’s tricky to rock a rhyme, to rock a rhyme that’s right on time
It’s tricky, (How is it D?) it’s tricky, tricky…”
Hell yes, it is tricky. Those gentlemen had it absolutely right, and I suspect every poet would agree.
School pupils needn’t aspire to be career poets, but a playful yet sophisticated employment of language at any educational institution is something I need to celebrate.
It is our obligation to offer our children the daily bread of their basic 3 R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic.
Yet, if it were up to me, the sweetness of including eloquent and elevated language in each child’s educational diet would be just as mandatory. Access to poetry—Shakespear and Lord Byron or Run D.M.C., Allen Ginsberg, and Langston Hughes—is the birthright of every human being, for all of human history proves the universality of verse and artfully crafted language.
Making a joyful noise unto the Lord or otherwise† dates back beyond recorded history.
So color me impressed by the time-out error message employed by one school in one place, and pardon me for making it into a metaphor for the education every child deserves, steeped in tradition, yet rich in creative exploration of every modern possibility.
* Reference to the 1995 film Babe, not meant to suggest any porcine tendencies to the academic program in question.
† Psalm 98:4 (The Bible)