Judges hope juries will keep their deliberations short, and guilty people hope judges will hand down short sentences. We all live in such a hectic 24-hours-a-day world that most of us paradoxically wish there were more hours in the day.
In many other respects, we prefer the shorter versions of things. I have always felt that a modern proofreader would have expunged the word ‘also’ from the title of the novel “The Sun Also Rises.” Although I believe it had already been edited down from Hemingway’s original version — “The Sun Also Rises, Except in the Land of the Midnight Sun, Where it is Already There!” (In my experience, the midnight teenage son doesn’t rise until late afternoon.)
For such a short word, the word ‘short’ covers a lot of ground both positive and negative, like one of those batteries that are never included with your purchase, a fact you only discover when you unwrap the product at home. We are all happy enough to find a shortcut when fleeing from creditors, but once we have shaken them off we are less than happy to be so short of breath. Short isn’t always sweet.
No one likes a short-tempered person with a short fuse, and we would most likely be rather short with such a person, no matter what height we were otherwise. A man on a street corner in Miami once addressed a single word to me as I walked by — “Dope,” he said. On such short acquaintance I chose to believe he was offering me cannabis rather than assessing my mental acuity, and after such an experience I decided to cut my holiday short. Oh, did I mention? — he had a short-barreled shotgun tucked under his arm. It’s funny the things you remember.
One area in which short forms are useful is the realm of education, which is still popular in some countries. You may think you know who wrote Pride & Prejudice, or Macbeth, but I have both titles in paperback on a shelf and the name on the cover of each is the same. My editions are the work of my sadly departed friend Margaret Tarner, who in her time was one of the first female undergraduates at Oxford. Look on Amazon and you will see she also wrote Dracula and Bleak House and several other masterpieces, with some help from the original authors of course.
I suppose this rambling you are reading now — and brave of you to persevere, incidentally –could be described as short-form rambling, except for the fact that such content is supposed to be snappy and to the point, designed to be “snackable”, like so much else these days. Think of me as your short-order chef, and I hope I haven’t given you indigestion. Don’t worry, it should disappear shortly.