Saturday, July 28, 2007

NPR - How it relates

I got to thinking about two recent incidents with people, both of whom got angry with something I wrote after a conversation with them. I have a thinking out loud mind and often people in normal conversation will give me one or more tangents of ideas, and I'll sit down and write about what I think. But then the people get mad at me thinking I misundestood their words or ideas, when I simply wandered away from it in a different direction.

I always try to explain that my ideas may have started with an idea from them, they didn't actually give me the specific idea, but only got me thinking around their ideas. I owe them a thanks, but sometimes they don't see it that way. So it got me to thinking again about the word "relate", and how everything relates, and often where misunderstandings arise.

First, there are things which relate to each other in external ways. For example, how couples relate to each other from their own and each other's friends.

Second, there are things which relate from each other in the sense of one follows the other. For example how couples relate to their respective and other's families from their own relationship.

Third, there are things which relate with each other in internal ways within each other. For example how couples to each other from their own experience with each other.

Fourth, there are things which relate within each other as one is part of the other. For example how couples relate to each other as a couple.

Fifth, there are things which relate between themselves or other things. For example how couples relate to each other in day to day living.

I'm sure there are more ways things relate to each other or other things, and I'm sure my definition of each isn't necessarily complete. And you're free to add yours to the list.

When I was in graduate school another graduate student taught me the use of preposition. He was a tremendous writer as well as a good editor. He wouldn't edit your work as explain it back to you from your writing, asking you, "Is this what you mean?" And over the course of two years we edited each others work he managed to teach me about language and writing. And while I don't always practice it, I try to watch the preposition to ensure I'm using them to say what I mean.

And why the tangent thought? Well, the word relate means just that, and the following phrase describes the relationship between two or more things and why the preposition is important to describe the relationship. It partly has to do with the independence or dependence of the things to the other things. In many cases the relationship can be loose or ambiguous, and the chose of a prepostion arbitary.

But the key is to ensure if you want a clear statement to make sure you relate the things correctly to each other, and it's the preposition that does this. So, it's about getting to Carnegie Hall with your writing, or better phrased, getting published in the Atlantic Monthly. Good luck.

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