David Bouchier: A Few Well Chosen Words

David Bouchier’s weekly essays are full of unexpected observations and whimsical opinions. Listeners will relish his entertaining, enlightening, and sometimes exasperated commentaries on the routines that carry us through the year, the surreal rituals of politics, the unsettling experience of foreign travel, and the confusions and comedies of everyday suburban life.

You can hear David Bouchier on-air Monday mornings or by subscribing to his podcast, A Few Well Chosen Words.

The Knowledge Man

Oct 7, 2013

We just celebrated, or perhaps forgot to celebrate, an important moment in intellectual history. Denis Diderot was born on October 5, 1713 in France. This may not seem like the most dramatic piece of news to hear on a Monday morning three hundred years after the event, but every time Mr. Google, Wikipedia, or any of the online search engines answers one of our questions we are benefitting from the genius and determination of Denis Diderot.

England is one of my favorite countries. I grew up there, and still speak the language, more or less, and there are a few things about English life that make it special.

Reading a nineteenth century novel, I was struck by the fact that one character described another as "Intelligent, but not very wise." We would never say that now. We might describe a person as being not very sensible, or not very talented, but never as lacking in wisdom. The word has dropped out of the language, along with other useful descriptive words like stupidity, usury, and posterity.

Vacations by the sea, as I remember them from childhood, were always a bit of an ordeal.  There was nothing to do on the beach except get sunburn or hypothermia, depending on the weather, but one bright spot was the “Punch and Judy” puppet show: a beach entertainment that never failed to attract a crowd of kids, including me.  The show was always exactly the same, but we didn’t care.  Just like modern kids at the movies, we were there for the violence and the political incorrectness. 

We may be the last people left in the world who take snapshots on vacation and stick them into a photograph album.  We have a library of albums as big as medieval Bibles in which our summer memories are lovingly preserved.  The pictures have scarcely changed over the years.  The main actors get a little older, and grayer, but the prints are so small and fuzzy that it scarcely matters.  Every vacation place looks exactly like every other.  Photograph albums give a reassuring sense of time standing still.

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