Can I make this title shorter?

The amusing Dr. Luther at Luther at the Movies was playing with an aristocratic title generator yesterday. I went over and checked it out, and frankly it didn’t amuse me much. Too easy.

But at that site I noticed a link to this site, where you can purchase an official Scottish lairdship. Or so they claim.

Don’t say I never did anything to improve your quality of life.

How am I today? Much better, thanks. I went to bed about 9:00 last night, and slept till 6:00 a.m., and I woke up much improved.

My working hypothesis on what happened to me is that my body was overwhelmed by the unprecedented amount of sound sleep it’s been getting lately. It had to shut down for a while to recalibrate.

I was listening to talk radio today in the car, and when I got where I was going I turned it off. I noticed immediately how much more pleasant the silence was than the preceding discussion had been.

That put me in mind of a saying attributed to Calvin Coolidge (which means somebody else probably actually said it): “I try never to say anything that won’t improve on silence.”

Those words have been guiding lights to me all my life.

You might not realize it, knowing me only from these posts, but I’m known as a man of few words. Partly because I grew up in a situation where saying the wrong thing was physically dangerous, I learned to keep my own counsel and save my fire for the moment when I can drop one pithy, memorable, and possibly funny statement into the mix.

Because of this policy I have a reputation for being smarter than I am.

I’m perfectly OK with that, by the way.

But I think it might be a help to me in writing too. Less isn’t always more, in spite of the cliché, but in modern writing it definitely helps.

An example comes from one of my favorite books, Heimskringla, (or The Sagas of the Kings of Norway) by the Icelander Snorri Sturlusson—the most exciting and readable history book written in the Middle Ages.

There’s a scene in the saga of King Harald Hardrada (who deserves to be much better known than he is). Harald has come into open conflict with one of his jarls (earls), a man named Haakon. who spared an enemy of Harald’s against his orders. Harald goes out to attack Haakon with an army. He defeats him, but it’s uncertain whether the jarl survived or not. As the king’s army is going home, a man suddenly leaps from the forest into the path, grabs the jarl’s captured standard, kills the man carrying it, and disappears into the trees again.

In the earlier versions of the saga that Snorri used for sources, Harald replies with a fairly long speech about how dangerous an enemy Haakon is, and how everyone should be on guard.

In Snorri’s version, Harald just says, “The jarl is alive. Bring me my armor.”

Think of the impression Clint Eastwood made by doing the Man With No Name westerns almost entirely without lines.

Writers do well to remember how powerful a few, well-chosen words can be.

Wow! It’s snowing hard out there.

Winter is alive. Bring me my sweater.

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