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preliminary flourish, phlegmatic correction, puttering close : I should be afraid of myself

...a preliminary flourish and a puttering close, Urge them to begin at the beginning and stop at the end. Read examples of ways in which members of the class arrived at a strong closing.
      Whether to require an outline prepared before beginning to write, whether to resort to similes of freight-cars and geometry as an aide to good paragraphing, whether to advise furious writing and phlegmatic correction — this sort of thing I may have opinions about after another fifteen years. I have not arrived at much of anything so far. ₁

...But the majority still desire an art that is purer, spelled with capitals. They have gone to the master of knowledge, to Science, and have heard the hard answer, “Ye must be born again. Sell all the method you are puttering with, and come, follow me in more observing.” But the sociologists turn away sorrowful and look in the printed rabbinical pages of the Law and the Prophets according to some mystic Kultur. ₂

...That is an acrobat’s way of saying “puttering; with hopeless superstition.” ₃

out. For if the picked intellects of my country are so utterly wrong in the very fundamentals of right thinking, human brains are not work keeping. And if I had to live with the converse suspicion — that my own mind was puttering with desiccated myths — I should be afraid of myself. And a man afraid of himself has no need of his brain. If an ordinary citizen can believe in God... ₄

sources : all (Charles) Henshaw Ward

  1. What is English? : A Book of Strategy for English Teachers (1917) : 208
    U Chicago copy/scan, via google : link
    LC copy/scan, via hathitrust : link
  2. Thobbing : A Seat at the Circus of the Intellect (1926) : 218
    U California copy/scan, via google : link
    same (U California copy/scan), via hathitrust : link

    Thobbing a word that might be brought back into common usage —

    THOBBER. [thob (WNID 1934)] — 1945 Time 24 Sept. p. 48/3
    A thobber is a person who prefers guess-work to investigation and reinforces his beliefs by asserting them frequently.
    [footnote] Grammarian Charles Henshaw Ward . . . coined the word from the phrase: thinking out the opinion that pleases one and believing it.
    ex I. Willis Russell and Woodrow W. Boyett, “Among the New Words,” in American Speech 34:2 (May, 1959) : 131-133 : jstor link

  3. on Thorstein Veblen’s exposé of poor economic reasoning, ibid, 288 :
    via google : link
    via hathitrust link (hathitrust)
  4. Builders of Delusion : A Tour Among Our Best Minds (1931) : 170
    via google : link (snippet only)

  5. Charles Henshaw Ward (1872-1935)
    Obituary Records of Graduates of Yale University Deceased during the Year 1935-1936 (Bulletin of Yale University, 15 October 1936) : 187 : link (pdf)
    graduate school 1896-98; B.A. Pomona College 1896
  6. portrait (“ca 1895”), in collection of General Artemas Ward House Museum (Harvard) : link
    finding aid : link

17 September 2023