The Strength of The Sciences vs. The Weakness of Language

The sciences are strong, concrete and often undeniable. There is an undeniability to math because “1+1=2” can in no way be refuted. The arguments that prove gravity and other physics based theories are extremely robust due to years worth of research and analysis. The theories have been battled tested, and will continue to be examined for years to come in order to confirm their validity. However, language is everything, but stable and reliable. Language fails humans every single day as they struggle to find the words to describe what they experience through their many senses. Words don’t always have direct translations in other languages, they’re often pronounced differently, and have different meanings in different situations. Percival Everett is a constant manipulator of the English language. He understood as well as anyone that language, especially English, fails in a multitude of ways. Everett exploits the failures of language extremely well in “I am Not Sidney Poitier”. Everett also holds logic and mathematics in high regard through his archive of poems entitled “re: f(gesture)”. Everett would argue that theories backing mathematics and logic hold much more truth than the rules of the English language. 

Everett loves toying with the English language in very thought provoking ways. The unequivocal instance in which Everett does this is in his novel “I am Not Sidney Poitier”. The reader need not very look far to find the failure in the language either. In fact the failure is kind of shoved into the reader’s face the whole time. The failure that I am alluding to is the protagonist’s name. The protagonist’s name is “Not Sidney Poiteir”. Throughout the novel the name is a bit of an enigma to everyone that Not Sidney meets because they all don’t know what to make of it. Some people bully him out of confusion; Not Sidney admitted that “they were understandably and justifiably frustrated and angry with me. Fortunately it wasn’t all bad for Not Sidney, some girls were curious enough to give him a kiss in order to learn his secret. However, there is no secret, he just has an adverb in his name. There is no crime against the English language by using an adverb in a name, but it sure does stump a whole lot of people. This is a prime example of Percival Everett demonstrating how the English language can fail.

Percival Everett values things that are absolute like math and science, even though he may not understand those subjects as well as English. Everett is an author and an English professor, but he understands that English, as well as all other earthly languages, have their faults. In Everett’s series of poems named “Logic” within “re: f(gesture), he discusses equations, and significance of numbers. Everett has poem ironically entitled “6” which is all about the number seven. The poem is summed up well with the line “Seven is, will be. All men will die but not seven” (70). The significance of this line is that the concept of seven will never die; seven will never equal another number, it will always be what it is. Language is very different from this concept because words can often mean multiple things. Through homonyms people can see that one word can hold multiple meanings. An example is the word “band”. A band can be either a group of people who play instruments together or a ring. The word band may have multiple meanings, but the word seven never will. The number will always be what it is and the concept will never change, unlike many English words. 

In the poem “2” found in “Logic”, Percival Everett tells about the concept of “X”. Everett says “compose this reality- molecules, atoms, simple X” (66). X in this poem and in many equations is used as a variable to represent something that is unknown. “X” like seven, is definite and unchanging, and in the words of Everett is “simple”. Math and science is simple because it is what it is and the laws, unless they’re discovered as incorrect, will never change. This is another piece of absolute knowledge that Everett finds to be irrefutable, unlike the countless issues found within the English language. 

Percival Everett uses his poems in “Logic” and his novel “I am Not Sidney Poitier” to highlight the strengths of math and science, as well as the weakness of language. Everett shows one failure of the English language by placing the adverb “Not” within his protagonist’s name. In order to show the strength of math and science, Everett wrote poems about “seven” and “X”. Both seven and X are definite concepts that are unchanging. Math and science is strong because of their reliable and dependable theories. On the flip side, the English language is ever changing and difficult to comprehend.

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