Friday, 12 June 2009


There was a man whose life was all but ruined by the verb to forget, ruined at least subjectively from the vantage point of a certain kind of external observer, a sane man if you will. "A verb is an active process," this ruined man would begin to rant. "But what's so active about forgetting? Forgetting isn't doing anything. It's the absence of doing something. It's not a verb! Remembering is a verb, an action, and bodily actions even more so, or more obviously so. If you had the equipment you could even observe and analyse the cognitive processes of remembering, the lighting up of whatever areas of the brain are engaged in the remembering, which is just thinking about whatever it is you were intending to think about. But forgetting?! What cognitive proceses would there be to observe? None because nothing happens! It's a word that doesn't refer to anything, and what kind of damned word is that?!"
"So what," people would laugh and ask him," do you suggest? Not use the word? What would we do then?"
"But that's it exactly!" he would answer furiously. "The word should be expunged. It's an insult! Instead of saying I forgot, just say something like I didn't remember. To forget implies you did something. And the whole problem is that you didn't do something!"
"But not remembering is also not doing something, so how would that be any better?"
"But there's no pretence that you did do something. It's more honest. More sensible."
It became ever more his mission to get people to understand all this but sadly the mission brought him no peace or pleasure. Instead it all ever more fuelled the fires of his frustration and misery at the vast hopelessness of the task. If only he could get some famous writers, politicians even, to endorse what he was saying. But who was he? A nobody, that's who, and what's worse, an unhinged nobody.

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