Blog #43 “ NEAR” and “FAR”

The words “near” and “far” would suggest, at least, facially, that they are useful, perhaps to the traveler; in fact, they are completely useless and devoid of meaning or usefulness to anyone.

A possible suggestion to go somewhere, is often met with the response, “Is it far?” This inane question can call for no sensible answer and, if it has any standing as a communication, signifies only that the respondent is, to some degree, reluctant to vacate his comfortable perch. Should this be succeeded by the statement, “It is not that far” such reply is equally meaningless, except to the extent that the speaker prefers to insist on going. No information at all has been exchanged except, perhaps, contrary intentions on the subject; how far? Far from what? There are no indications of distance and no point of reference, whatsoever such as, Peru is far from Poughkeepsie, Brazil is far from Brooklyn.

During the heyday of Imperial Britain, the meaning and use of these two words were never in doubt. Greenwich, England was the reference point for the world’s timekeeping (” Greenwich Mean Time”).The further away you were from Greenwich, the later in the day; it is later in the day in Japan than London.

Moreover, in the halcyon days of the British Empire, Parliament divided the planet into geographic zones; the” Far East” was further from England than the” Middle East” or the” Near East”. Jolly old England was always the unanimous poster- boy for ethnocentrisms.

But even such egocentric geography on the part of enlightened England never furnished any useful information regarding distance, either proximity or the opposite; “near” and “far” simply denoted relative distance from Trafalgar Square.

The two words, at least, are ubiquitous in their use as non-distance expressions, such as,” near miss,” “distant relative”,” far- fetched”,” far from acceptable”,” far flung.”

There are some acceptable (distance) uses of the words, viz.,”Paris is further from New York than Poughkeepsie,” “Staten Island is nearer to Manhattan than Albany,”” Piccadilly Square is closer to Parliament than Zurich.”

In any case, p. thinks the two words are too “far out.”


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Retired from the practice of law'; former Editor in Chief of Law Review; Phi Beta Kappa; Poet. Essayist Literature Student and enthusiast.

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