RE: E-prime -an interesting article.

M. E. Smith (
Mon, 11 Oct 1999 10:48:59 -0700 (PDT)

Yes, I found the article interesting, but it suffers from the same flaw as many other articles about E-prime: it does not make clear the distinction between the "is of identity" and the "is of existance".

The English verb "to be" has two meanings, "to be identicle to" and "to exist". IT IS ONLY THE FORMER THAT E-PRIME WAS ORIGINALLY MEANT TO ABOLISH.

Since the idea was invented, sploppy thinking has allowed the idea of "E-prime" to change, so that some people will even say that the sentence:

"I am in Alabama"

which uses the "to exist" sense of the verb "to be", must be replaced by something like:

"My body currently exists within the borders of the
geographical entity known as Alabama."

This foolishness makes E-prime seem silly to most people.

If it has already been pointed out somewhere else on the list that E-prime is only about abolishing the "is of identity", not the "is of existence", I apologize for wasting bandwidth.

Another point: There already exist languages without a verb equivalent to the "is of identity" (certain Brazilian rainforest tribes, "Klingon", etc.) and cultures which use such languages still manage to have a lot of fuzzy thinking and superstitions, so nobody should think that E-prime would be a complete antidote to that sort of thing. For example, this post uses E-prime, and I'm sure some of you could dispute at least some of what I'm saying.

A last point: Any living language changes. English especially has prospered by having no absolute authorities to prevent new words from being used. I suspect that if the "is of identity" did not exist in any real modern culture (which excludes "Klingon"), it would be invented in a single generation. This renders E-prime mainly a useful philisophical idea, not a realistic goal.

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M. E. Smith
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