Thursday, April 06, 2006

Woody versus Jefferson

The BBC is having one of those contests where readers of their web site pick the most "moving" words in history. My first thought was that the competition could be very steep. Readers would nominate short quotes. And then the "resident expert" would pick the 10 most moving. And then readers would vote from among them.

I have to wonder about their resident expert however. Professor David Crystal is supposed to be an expert on language. Yet he seems to have no idea as to the meaning of the term "moving words". Those would be words the invoke some deep emotion. Yet many of the quotes he picked as finalists do no such thing. I happen to enjoy Woody Allen. I find his wit amusing but not moving. Yet Prof. Crystal has Woody Allen listed right up there in the top ten. Now perhaps Allen could be moving. I don't know. I've chuckled at his comments but never been moved by them. And the quote that Prof. Crystal picked is midling amusing but no where near moving: "To you I'm an atheist; to God, I'm the Loyal Opposition."

The quote from th Dalai Lama sounds like it came from a fortune cookie: "You can't shake hands with a clenched fist." I'm not saying there is no wisdom in this comment but it far from moving.

So far the winner is "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." What is disappointing is that words which were proven to be moving are near the bottom. Those are the words Thomas Jefferson penned in the Declaration of Independence. Those were words that helped inspire a revolution and which have inspired freedom fighters for hundreds of years since. Yet they are barely ahead of Mr. Allen in the voting.