“If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much” — from Rudyard Kipling’s “If”
“I’m fearless, now hear this, I’m earless (less)
and I’m peerless (less), that means I’m eyeless
which means I’m tearless which means my iris
resides where my ears is, which means I’m blinded
But I’ma find it, I can feel it’s nearness” — from Lupe Fiasco’s “Dumb It Down”
Dear Mr. Michael Eric Dyson:
I know you’ve heard the aforementioned verses. You’re one of the most intelligent and well-versed people I’ve come across yet. It would be a pleasure to converse with you.
But when that day comes, I have one favor to ask of you. Well, actually two. No. 1: Don’t talk so fast. No. 2, and most important: Don’t use any words with more than five syllables.
I don’t say that to be rude. You are undoubtedly smarter and more educated than I am. But I want to be able to have a conversation with you where I’m able to respond without needing a pocket dictionary and two minutes to formulate a comeback. Good conversation should be checkers, not chess.
You have a Swiss Army knife for a tongue. But what good does the utility knife do the world if you’re constantly trying to use the fingernail clip function to fit into a Phillips screwhead? To the sane person, it’s like spraying bullets in a Mega church. It makes no sense.
You know what I’m saying. At times you try to talk over people’s heads to prove your points. It’s not to say that I don’t vibe with you. It’s just that I often have to DVR your televised takes and go to http://www.m-w.com for comprehension.
I’ve checked out a few of your titles from my local public library (think: recession). But I can’t make it past page 25 of any of them because the language is often too much to digest. My first journalism teachers and editors trained my colleagues and I to write short and descriptive.
Two words: Be concise. I know you’ve heard the saying “never use eight words when four will do.” Well, the same thing applies to syllables for your word choice.
Any good writer or linguist can weave words like a painter strokes his best brush. But what good is the finished product if too few can interpret the meaning? Too much wordiness can relegate a great writer or orator’s work to a similar dump site where one can find DJ Unk’s “Don’t Hide It, Divide It” and Mark Cronin-produced television shows.
Again, I don’t write this to upset you. I do so because you miss your target audience by speaking and writing on Level 13 when you need to be at a 5 about 92 percent of the time. If “you can walk with kings,” you must be able to “talk with crowds and keep your virtue.”
And no, that doesn’t mean you should become governor of Illinois and allegedly attempt to sell a Senate seat. What it is though is one of the strongest pleas of DuBois’ Talented Tenth, whether you agree with his theory or not. Just because a person can construct a good sentence doesn’t make that person any better than the illiterate guy doing the Stanky Legg on Kingshighway Blvd. in St. Louis (Trust me, he’s there).
I know you understand. If feasible, please acquiesce. If not, I can dig that, too. With this noted, I’m going to end this here and not waste too many more words.