Monday, September 13, 2010

Words v. Numbers

 "Additionally, a derivative may have complex aspects that require the auditor to have special knowledge to evaluate the measurement and disclosure of the derivative in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles.  For example, features embedded in contracts or agreements may require separate accounting as a derivative, and complex pricing structures may increase the complexity of the assumptions used in estimating the fair value of a derivative."

A week ago I finished editing 200 pages of a manual that contained nothing but sentences similar to the above.  I had two weeks to complete this project.

I spent hours and hours staring at these words.  Words that were no longer words.  Words that dreamt of being numbers.  At least numbers have the pure pleasure of being unadulterated signifiers.  There was no joy in these words, they existed only to point towards specific concepts.  The sentences, paragraphs, and chapters circled around and around each idea, like sharks around a bloody hunk of meat, all purpose, all force.

My job was to make sure that the sentences and paragraphs all fit within generally accepted standards of English grammar.  I dutifully marked it all up, debating each word, reading paragraphs and sentences over and over again.  "Does this sentence make sense?  Do these words make sense?  What is it talking about?  Is this a phrase that is common in auditing procedures?"  Sometimes when I went over my edits with a manager she would shrug and say "nobody is going to read this.  It doesn't really matter."

I've only ever had one other experience in my life when English sounded so completely foreign to me, and in that instance I was 14 and playing pool with two Scottish boys in a hostel in Northeast Scotland.

My goal this fall is to finish the novel that's been bumping around my head for the last several years.  While I edited the manual at work, I spent my evenings at home on my own writing.  I've always wanted to write a fairytale.  So I wrote a fairytale for a chapter.

What a pleasure to write living words instead of dead signifiers.

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