How does the word “ordinary” relate to sentences? The fact is, most of our sentences are not extraordinary. We spend sentences on sentences, and books are full of them, but how many of them actually make it into the “extraordinary” category? A few do. I’ve seen lists of “greatest first lines.” The opening to Pride and Prejudice is one: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” The opening to A Tale of Two Cities is another: “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”
(English-teacher note: both of these are in passive voice, though we’ve begun to teach that active-voice constructions are, of necessity, superior. Do we teach correctly?)
We recognize those sentences, and value them based on context and the importance of the works. But both those books are full of other sentences which we pass over, ignore, do not recognize. Most of the business of life is accomplished in ordinary sentences, not in extraordinary sentences.
Our American culture has fostered a generation of young people who feel that they are extraordinary, exceptional, that they must do extraordinary, exceptional things. But most of life is done by ordinary people doing ordinary things.
The extraordinary books are full of ordinary sentences. This extraordinary world is full of ordinary people.
I don’t want to be afraid of ordinary.
Combining Lisa-Jo’s Five Minute Friday link up with my 31 Days of Word-Wonder theme this month. This week is (loosely) devoted to sentences, so I’ve put five minutes toward the place where the FMF prompt — “Ordinary” — meets sentences. This is the result. If you want to join the Five Minute Friday fun, please use the button above. And if you’d like to read more in my Word-Wonder series, click “Word-Wonder” in the sidebar.
©2013 by Stacy Nott