Don't say what you mean, by Ben Jeapes

Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson gets his nickname by just being too clever by half for his audience. When confronted with an annoying dog, he says he wishes he owned half of it. Why? "Because I'd kill it."

This is too much for his listeners, who point out that you can't just kill half a dog without the other half dying too – which is exactly what Wilson was getting at. Too late, the damage is done. He is now officially a pudd'nhead.

No writer can compensate for a thick audience: the trick is in finding their level and still being clever with words to make them strike home. Here is a Franciscan blessing I heard today [link to source here], which after the first couple of lines really makes you sit up and take notice.

May God bless you with discomfort,
At easy answers, half-truths,
And superficial relationships
So that you may live
Deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression,
And exploitation of people,
So that you may work for
Justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears,
To shed for those who suffer pain,
Rejection, hunger and war,
So that you may reach out your hand
To comfort them and
To turn their pain to joy

And may God bless you
With enough foolishness
To believe that you can
Make a difference in the world,
So that you can do
What others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness
To all our children and the poor.

So, gang, your challenge: say what you mean to say, by saying the opposite.

Ben Jeapes took up writing in the mistaken belief that it would be easier than a real job (it isn’t). Hence, as well as being the author of 5 novels and co-author of many more, he has also been a journal editor, book publisher, and technical writer.


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