A provisional title for this collection was “Fifty Stabs at the Truth of Language,” which despite its weight, I remain fond of because of its nod to Montaigne’s Essais, which the French master thought of as stabs at the truth of his experience. In some ways, that title is a better description of the book you are holding than “The Pleasures of Language,” for the subject is so huge and complex all anyone can do is to take a stab at it in an attempt to unpeel the slippery onion of our tongue. Whatever I choose to call it, this is a book for the general reader who still consults a hardback dictionary and does an occasional crossword.
Having never been a glib speaker, despite forty-two years in the English classroom, I turned to the written word long ago. Schopenhauer thought most of us spend forty years preparing the text and thirty on the commentary; with me it’s been more of a sixty-ten split. But I come to the commentary phase well prepared. Laying out the text for me largely consisted of taking notes on 3×5 cards and filing them away for the final phase if I was fortunate enough to last that long.
Hart Crane wrote that he needed to be “drenched in words…” in order “to have the right ones form themselves into the proper patterns at the right moment.” With me, before writing short essays like these ranging from pornography to prayer and concision to tautologies, I immerse myself in the ideas summarized on my cards. Then I try to teach myself something I didn’t know before. I trust, gentle verb-adores, I have a few things to teach you as well.
About the Author
Born December 12, 1941 at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, DC, Skip Eisiminger is the son of Dorothy and Sterling Eisiminger. In 1959, he graduated from Mt. Vernon HS (his tenth school in twelve years). In 1963 while serving three and a half years in the Army Security Agency, he married Ingrid Barmwater of Helmstedt, West Germany. With her committed assistance, he graduated from Auburn University in 1967 (BS) and 1968 (MA). The same year, he settled his family in Clemson, SC after taking a job teaching English and interdisciplinary humanities at Clemson University. After his son Shane was born in 1964 and his daughter Anja in 1969, he returned to graduate school in 1970. In 1974, he graduated from the University of South Carolina with a PhD in English after which he returned to Clemson, where he looked forward to most Mondays until his retirement in 2010. His only move after his return was across town. Over forty-two years in academe, he published a book of verse, a book of word games, a children’s book, and two collections of essays. In forty-two years as a teacher at Clemson, he taught over nine thousand students in twenty-nine different courses.
“… it is wit’s investigation of various and sundry (and conjunction of hilarious and wondry) which makes the clever, word-infatuated, universe-ranging writing of Skip Eisiminger such a lasting delight.” –Elizabeth Boleman-Herring, Editor, Weekly Hubris
“With seriously funny humor, profound insight and a vast accumulation of knowledge about ‘words, words, words’ (their origins and flexibilities), Skip Eisiminger creates a world-class collection of beguiling essays investigating ‘The richness (and rankness) of our language and the endless variations we weave with the muscles of our mouths [which] never grow tired of studying it.’ –Duff Brenna, Editor, Serving House Journal
“Damn you, Eisiminger! […] I opened this book. Now, it’s three hours later, I haven’t graded a single paper, and all I’ve done is enjoy the company and wit of the Wordspinner!” –Chris Benson, Senior Lecturer in English
These essays are as singular in their intriguing variety as those of the master essayist E. B. White. They range from the literary to the everyman, sprinting from afternoon delights to an evening of fireside solemnity. –David Tillinghast, Professor Emeritus of English
“More than anyone I know of, Skip delights in the word. He is fascinated by its sound, shape, and promise of every word he sees. To him, as it was with Emily Dickinson, every word is a poem in itself.” –Harold Woodell, Professor Emeritus of English
“Skip is able to weave personal experiences, historical events, and interesting tidbits into each of his pieces with such finesse and poise that one cannot help but be engrossed by the final product.” –Brennan Beck, Assistant Director Military and Veteran Engagement, Clemson University
“These essays by Skip Eisiminger are not only engaging and contain material that I had never thought of before; but, in addition, they often address important topics in a very important way.” –Ronald Moran, Professor Emeritus of English and Associate Dean