To Be or Not: An E-Prime Anthology

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9780918970381: To Be or Not: An E-Prime Anthology
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Examine the verbs of the "to be" family and you will find a startling underlying assumption. The words be, been, is, was, am, were, etc., have their logical basis in the idea that things stay the same. The notion of identity — a thing's absolute sameness with a similar thing or with itself over time — has confused and corrupted thinking since the days of Aristotle.

Life means change: growth, learning, metamorphosis, decay. Even the apparently changeless earth changes, as moving plates push up mountains or split continents apart. Today we often experience rapid social and technological change. Yet our daily language has at its foundation the assumption that things don't change, an assumption that helps us focus and therefore "understand," but also leads us astray when we act as if things haven't changed, and they have. How can we deal with this "two-edged sword" that both helps and hinders us in our daily lives?

E-Prime, a new variant of English that eliminates the verbs of the "to be" family, makes us aware of the problem, and offers one solution.

Some of the benefits: lively, concise writing and speaking; clearer, more critical thinking; better communication, evaluation and decision-making.

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About the Author:

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Paul Dennithorne Johnston, a graduate of the City of London (England) Polytechnic, serves as Executive Director of the International Society for General Semantics and Managing Editor of ETC.: A Review of General Semantics. Mr. Johnston has worked as newspaper reporter and editor, and has published fiction and nonfiction in the U.S.A. and Britain.

D. David Bourland, Jr., graduated from Culver Military Academy (1946), Harvard College (A.B. Mathematics, 1951), Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration (M.B.A. 1953), and the Universidad de Costa Rica (Licenciatura in English Linguistics, 1973). Mr. Bourland, who held a fellowship for study at the Institute for General Semantics, 1949-1950, has participated in many of the Institute's seminars, edited the General Semantics Bulletin, 1964-1970, and acted as a trustee of the Institute, 1964-1989. He served on the Staff, Commander Naval Forces Far East, as a Lieutenant, Junior Grade, 1953-1955, and worked in naval operations research, 1955-1971. Mr. Bourland taught at the Universidad de Costa Rica from 1971 to 1980, retiring as Associate Professor of Linguistics.

Review:

It [E-Prime] forces one relentlessly to confront sloppiness, laziness, fuzziness, blandness, imprecision, simplistic generalization... -- The Atlantic Monthly, February, 1992

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D. David Bourland
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