Learning French again has highlighted to me the importance of verbs. The title of this post has nothing to do with verbs, it means ‘excessively lengthy or technical speech or writing’, but it’s apt because it comes from the obsolete 18th century French verb verbeier meaning ‘to chatter’.

A verb, named from the Latin verbum meaning word, conveys an action or state of being. It’s possibly the most important part of the sentence; identify the verb and everything else falls into place (hopefully). The Oxford English Dictionary contains around 32,000 verbs, about a seventh of the total words defined. I can’t imagine how we would communicate the nuances of human expression without them.

Saying that, I have come across a 2004 French novel, Le Train de Nulle Part by Michel Thaler, that contains no verbs! He was using a technique known as constrained writing to create a surrealist approach to literature. Here is an excerpt I found on Wikipedia:

“Quelle aubaine ! Une place de libre, ou presque, dans ce compartiment. Une escale provisoire, pourquoi pas ! Donc, ma nouvelle adresse dans ce train de nulle part : voiture 12, 3ème compartiment dans le sens de la marche. Encore une fois, pourquoi pas ?”

“Fool’s luck! A vacant seat, almost, in that compartment. A provisional stop, why not? So, my new address in this train from nowhere: car 12, 3rd compartment, from the front. Once again, why not?”

Perhaps I’ll make my next project a novel without prepositions…

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