Participating in Language


Ever since I read Arthur Rimbaud in the library at Thomas Worthington High School, I’ve wanted to participate in language.

Nothing excites me as much as the bare, explosive prose of Cormac McCarthy, the devout dialogues of Victor Hugo, the Escheresque phenomenon that one experiences through Franz Kafka. Though I have never fancied myself a writer by trade or discipline, I cannot help but consider myself an enthusiast of human language. Real-world dialogue is no less intriguing despite the loathsome banality that we tolerate as everyday speech. As Goffman and Pinker remind us, it’s often within the banal desert that we find oasis of complexity overlooked by misguided pretension.

Perhaps this drive to participate in language explains why some of us end up interpreting despite our best intentions to avoid it. This is rather fabulous conjecture. I know full well that it has more to do with economics than with preference. Yet, many interpreters I know – not all, but many – exhibit a similar passion for language and at least a little excitement for the task of interpreting what other people say and sign.

Whether motivated by fervor or whimsy, we are participating in language. Isn’t that sublime?

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