Friday, 2 October 2009

Gaudy at Trinity: 1

Today I go to a gaudy at Trinity for men who matriculated between 1953 and 1959.

This one sentence contains three examples of a fundamental problem faced by people wanting to write an autobiography on a blog: how do I explain the meaning of a specialised word, like 'gaudy' used as a noun or 'matriculate', or the significance of a proper noun, like Trinity?

I can't use footnotes; I don't want to break up the narrative flow by putting explanations in parentheses, both because of the need to write concisely on a blog and because it is condescending to those people who do understand; I could use hyperlinks to online dictionaries or to Wikipedia, but these are laborious to insert, even if one has, as I do, competence in HTML; or I could write a more generalised sentence like this: "Today I go to Oxford to attend a celebratory dinner with people who were at my college in the fifties".

The generalised sentence is only 25% longer than the one I wrote at the beginning, but it is less precise; it is flabbier. Therefore I will continue to write using precise words rather than generalised ones, expecting whoever reads them to deduce them from context or from pictures, which I am trying to use today for the first time.

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