For my own amusement I wrote the last post and this one in E-prime. That means no use of the verb “to be” in any of it’s forms such as “is, are, will be, am, was, being” It becomes quite a task if one writes about Buddhism or philosophical or psychological issues related to being (that’s the noun form so don’t accuse me of cheating) or subjectivity or existentialism. The reason for doing this involves looking for irrational semantic constructions, to clarify thinking, to write more precisely and to improve the quality of my writing. I may or may not do it again, but it gets interesting to try to fit in between the words and the ideas in an effort to make the articulation of the latter more clear. It seems rather awkward at this point but perhaps with a bit more practice that will abate.

It goes something like this:

I am concerned about…becomes…I feel concerned about…or…A concern appears with

This situation is like…becomes…This situation resembles…

There will be a post about…becomes…A future post I have in mind relates to…

It really stretches one’s vocabulary and grammatical ability with regard to verbs. And it does cause a writer to uproot some lazy habits and thinking. I think it might also help with better reading comprehension. When someone wants to write about topics which require a certain amount of precision in their expression, such as philosophy, Buddhism or similar subjects this kind of exercise can definitely be useful.

As an aside, English without the verb “to be” resembles Hindi which does not have a verb to indicate possession, that equates to the verb “to have”, as in “I have a family” “Do you have a map?” which become expressed as “I am a family person” or “I belong to a family” or specific details about the family emerge such as “My family consists of a spouse/children” or in the other instance “Do you sell maps? or “Is there a map here I can look at”?”. The “to be” verb often carries the same or similar meaning as the English “to have” or Hindi offers other ways to indicate possession grammatically such as uses of possessive pronouns, including “mine, ours” and possessive adjectives “my, your, his, her” for example.

Temptation presents itself to carry on with this line of thinking but channeling Sapir or Whorf – Linguistic relativity in the context of experimental languages, which denotes E-prime to a degree – at this time of the morning has limited advisability. Science fiction makes a lot of use of these theories by the way. Think Iain Banks’ Culture series and “Marain” or “Newspeak” in 1984. It also applies to computer programming languages.

I do this kind of thing on a lot of my posts, not this specific exercise but others, to try to rid myself of habitual thinking patterns and lazy ways of expression. I just don’t tend to mention it.

Any posts I write in E-prime get labeled as such. The future tense remains the most difficult to deal with I find.

A few links on E-Prime:


E-prime from the ~riverflow blog. I got the idea for doing this from here. More E-prime links available there as well.