Philosophers find E-prime interesting, since once you eliminate “be” words you can’t even say many of the classic logical paradoxes! You can’t pose stupid questions like “What is the meaning of life?” or “Who am I?” Most poetry cannot be rewritten in E-prime. You can’t utter philosophical pseudoprofundities like “I think, therefore I am.” I consider these beneficial results strongly argue in favor of the adoption of E-prime. Throw out “My love is like a red, red rose.” Such constructions encourage vague, imprecise, misleading, ambiguous, and foolish writing masquerading as profundity. We’d have to throw out most of Shakespeare, which I’d consider no great loss. Into the trash would go volumes of political speeches, advertising copy, and song lyrics, from opera to rock. Again, no serious cultural loss.
We generally use ‘be’ words to equate things. Most of the time we equate things that we shouldn’t. How does the poet’s love object resemble a rose? Does she have thorns? Does her complexion appear red? Does she smell bad? Does her beauty fade quickly? When one examines such foolish utterances they collapse into meaninglessness. This characteristic of poetry would cause little harm but for the fact that many people take such expressions seriously. Indeed, the average person commonly mistakes ambiguity for profundity. This weakness of the human mind makes people easy prey to advertisers, demagogues and snake-oil salesmen.
→ On E-prime
Posted in: Philosophy