A reader writes me a little note about language. It responds to my Impromptus today, which is Part I of a little “cruise journal” — some notes on NR’s just-completed cruise along the Seine River. In that journal, I say I find it “somewhat amazing” that Paris now has an esplanade named after David Ben-Gurion. (This was a highly controversial naming, effected last year.)
Our reader writes, “Can you say ‘somewhat amazing’? Isn’t the state of amazement an extreme reaction to something?”
I recall a discussion I once had with Mark Helprin — about the type of person who says you can’t say “very.” These are the same people who say you can’t begin a sentence with “And” or “But,” or split an infinitive, or end a sentence with a preposition. They are to be ignored, certainly by those who want to write well.
I think I remember what Mark said about “very”: “There’s a difference between ‘fat’ and ‘very fat,’ and between ‘rich’ and ‘very rich.’ The word is needed and valuable. Of course, any word can be misused, overused, or what have you.”