Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Short post tonight- I still haven't decided what this blog is all about during version 2. Just a random thought on things I write in letters.

I often write, and see written, "I hope this letter finds you well." There are two possible meanings that this phrase can take, and I haven't decided which one it actually represents.

Before I go any further, I'd like to point out that I'm a total fan of making things mean whatever-the-devil I want them to mean. If I want "Sweet and Low" by Augustana to be about diabetes, heck, for me, that song is about diabetes. If that's not actually what the artist intended, I say too bad, because I'm going to interpret it for my maximum satisfaction.

So, knowing that it doesn't actually matter what it is supposed to mean, I'll just explain what I think it might mean and then tell you which one I pick. Pointless? Probably, but here we are.

Solution A: "I hope this letter finds you well." In this solution the letter is the boss and he is trying to find the person. If the letter finds the person well, it means that the letter has not failed in its mission to locate the individual. "The letter found him poorly" could mean that the letter never arrived, or was beat up upon arrival, or got there very late.

Solution B: "I hope this letter finds you well." In this solution the "find" verb isn't so much about location as it is about the state that the person is in when the letter "finds" them. As a related example, we can say, "Summer found him dreaming of winter". I hope that the letter finds you well refers to the letter discovering that the person is doing well whenever that letter arrives. This is my preferred interpretation.

What's the moral of the story here? Many things can be interpreted in more than one way. I like to pick the way that fits me best- whether or not it is officially intended by "the man" or whatever counter-culture label we want to put on it. Therefore, Sweet and low is about diabetes, Human (the Killers) is about an LDS mission, and inception ends- it does not keep going. I'll take my right to choose all the way to my misinformed grave, thank you very much.

I hope this blog post finds you well- whatever way you like to be found.


Rachel Frost said...

New Criticism (yay, critical approaches to literature) is all about words taking on a meaning of their own once they leave a person's mouth (or are put on a page). The author/artist loses control of it, so it doesn't matter what they intended.

As Jaron put it, Dumbledore isn't gay, even if J.K. Rowling says he is. There's no contextual evidence for it. Therefore, it's not true.

Words are what you make of them. Simply put, I agree with you.

Valerie said...

It really is crazy how one simple sentence can mean two completely different things depending on who is reading and how they might feel at the moment they read it.