I have this page-a-day calendar called Jeffrey Kacirk’s Forgotten English (although you can never tell what day it is based solely on looking at it because I’m always falling behind on my day-by-day reading). It has all kinds of interesting tidbits not only about old words and how they were used back in the day, but also about holidays and customs of the past.
My favorite entry was from early in the year. On Thursday, January 14th, the word was “Connecticutisian,” which was, as you might have guessed, is a Connecticut resident. This entry also mentions the term “Connecticuties,” which according to the calendar, was coined by American linguist Allen Walker Read and was “reserved for pretty girls.” I like to think of myself as a Connecticutie.
A recent entry noted that the first Sunday of September was once Grandfather’s Day, which referenced C.E. Humphry’s Manners for Women. In this book, it states “It used to be considered rude to conclude a letter on the first or second page. If our grandfathers or grandmothers did so, they almost invariably apologised for a brevity that in those days had the effect of curtness.”
The entry also notes that Samuel Johnson once wrote, “A short letter…is, in my opinion, an insult like that of a slight bow or cursory salutation…”
I can hardly imagine a time when brevity was rude. Today, time is money. In a world of 140-character tweets, 160-character text messages, and 15-minutes of fame, it seems the opposite is true: longevity is rude and a waste of time.
I find myself falling into this trap, often apologizing to the recipient of an e-mail that runs longer than a couple of paragraphs. But really, what is wrong with a nice, long letter? Doesn’t that show that you care enough about the recipient to think that she might actually care to hear what you have to say? Or maybe it is selfish to expect someone to spend more than a few seconds reading your words?
What do you think? Does longevity show that you care? Or should I apologize for blathering on for too long?