Thursday, October 27, 2005

I will not be kind until I'm asked properly.

OK, so I know this is really mean and that the people who have this bumper sticker do so because they want to share the message of love, peace, cooperation and hippie tripe, but I must air my grievance against the appalling structure of the phrase:

"Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty."

Hmph. There is no symmetry in the composition. The implied command is to:

1. Practice random kindness.
2. Practice senseless acts of beauty.

1. I understand this part. You can practice kindness, as kindness is a noun, like football or music, both practiceable things. The adjective describing the noun "kindness" is "random," which defines the type of kindness you are exhorted to practice. Fine. All well and good.

2. Here's where I get annoyed. After the conjunction "and," one would and should expect to find another noun that can be practiced and an adjective describing that noun. I mean, I need to be told what to do here! Give me a clear directive! And we do, but what we get is "(Practice) senseless acts of beauty", which consists of an adjective, a noun and a prepositional phrase. There are two nouns in this half of the sentence, but one of these nouns, "beauty," has been unwillingly conscripted into adjective status, as "beauty" here is used to describe the type of act. It's not a senseless act of whimsy or obfuscation, but "beauty." Here, "acts of beauty" could be interchanged with "beautiful acts," without a change in meaning.

Now, if the lack of consistent adjective usage wasn't enough to make me writhe in agony, I shall deconstruct further and reach the root of my hatred. As we are asked in the beginning of all of this to practice things, we should be able to tell WHAT things by looking at the nouns associated with the verb "practice." To do this, we should be able to take out the adjectives and prepositional phrase and determine our newfound mission. If we do this, we are asked to:

Practice kindness and acts.

Ha! Not much of an order, is it, bumper sticker manufacturers and the sheep who buy their crap!

NOW, if we were asked to "Practice Acts of Random Kindness and Senseless Beauty," we would, in fact, be asked to do one thing, namely, perform ACTS. The type of acts then would be merely adjectives; acts of "Kindness" and "Beauty," which can both be performed conjointly.

Another, lengthier option would be to change the phrase to "Practice Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty." This has a nice symmetry to it and is perfectly correct, but it's a bit bulky. I don't like the repetition of a word in a wordy sentence of words in all its wordiness. It's just too much.

Ha! I win! I shall print up new bumper stickers and go on a spree of scraping and plastering, making sure to achieve maximum penetration of the hippie cars, especially in Fremont! Or not. I need some tea.


Christian said...

Well said! I'll help with the car thing. And take those "darwin" stickers off too while we're at it!

Tiffany said...

The whole random acts thing was started as a biz class project at Bakersfield College, and Oprah picked up on it. The original bumper sticker said, "Practice random acts of kindness."

The hippies got a hold of it and added the last part.

Like everything else that is wrong with society, I blame drugs.

Just say no, man. Just say no.

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