N is for Nuance …

N is for Nuance …

Hmmm … This might prove difficult. When face with an “N” word today, this is the first thing that popped into Tim’s mind. We all know what nuance is — that subtle shading or variation, a slight degree of difference in tone, meaning, or feeling .. a gradation of sorts — but how to write a poem about it. I mean, even Merriam-Webster provides this lovely bit of eye-bending grammar:

“He listened to the subtle nuances in the song.”

Well .. if nuance actually MEANS a “subtle difference,” as is written in the M-W definition, does that mean “subtle” in that sentence is redundant? “He listened to the subtle subtle differences (tones, gradations, etc.) in the song.” Now, you see, that’s something my high school Senior English teacher would have pointed out. Heavens … I can’t be channeling HIM … The next thing you know, I’ll be urging you to “Go Forth And Spread Beauty and Light,” or some such thing … Thus was the way Arthur Naething at Hackley Prep dismissed each class between 1961 and 1995 … If you’re crinkling a brow at that and thinking … man, that sounds familiar … and you’re a fan of Keith Olbermann (or Chris Berman on ESPN), yeah, same high school, same English teacher, same Moby Dick project, same Tragedy Paper, same “Miss Knowles, Hamlet’s soliloquy on the nature of existence, if you please.” Ah, the terror of the deep-voiced man stalking you in the halls and having to recite “To be or not to be” on cue. *shudders* And all y’all want to know where the whole writing-of-horror comes from!

Go figure…

Where was I? Oh, yes .. nuance… It’s French, you know. The etymology follows along these lines (from Merriam-Webster): French, from Middle French, shade of color, from nuer to make shades of color, from nue cloud, from Latin nubes; perhaps akin to Welsh nudd mist

First Known Use: 1781


Which begs the question — what were you using before 1781 to denote the subtle differences and feelings and gradations? What was it about 1781? So, I looked it up. Shaka Zulu was born in 1781. There’s a guy who never had the word “subtle” to describe him. There were the assorted skirmishes in The American Revolution, there was that whole surrender at Yorktown thing on October 19th that ended the armed conflict. There’s something called the “Zong massacre.” I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say, not even I could write such horror. On the same day (November 29.1781) Henry Hurle officially founded “The Ancient Order of Druids” in London. Slight degree of shading? Maybe, but the more the world changes, the more it stays the same… October 12, 1781 marked the “First Bagpipe competition in the Masonic Arms, Falkirk.” Subtle? Nuanced? Proably not. So, a quick once-over of The Year That Was 1781 provides, basically, nothing in our search as to WHY someone in 1781 thought, “Huh … that’s racked with nuances.” Maybe. Who knows what the first use was? It’s kind of like the first guy who yelled, “Duck!” That’s actually one of my favorite literary sight gags … two guys walking along and:






Ba ha ha ha ha ha!!! Oh, mercy, gets me every time …


Poetry Form: Rubaiyat


When one hears the name Rubaiyat, one automatically thinks of Omar Khayyam. So it is not surprising to find the Rubaiyat originated in Persia.
It consists of four line stanzas (quatrains) and is usually tetrameter or pentameter form.
Lines one, two, and four rhyme and the third line can be used to interlock the next stanza and by doing so with three or more stanzas, we have a Rubaiyat. (www.thepoetsgarret.com)


The subtleties of nature here unlocked

In sunlight and in shadow as tho stalked

By some unseeing eye for benefit

Of unremembered memories unblocked.

Whilst standing on a mountain, O, the view

O’er rocky slopes toward oceans’ azure hue;

And shadowed clouds confound the brilliant haze

That hazards all this vista does imbue

Late grows the hour and late the shining sun

Descends to rest in fields of beauty won

Gentle red and orange, purple, grey, hang unmoved

Dark falls dear, stars twinkle high, and twine I with my loved one.

2 Replies to “N is for Nuance …”

  1. I love Omar Khayyam’s work in it’s very many translations. I have a tiny little leather-bound copy of the Rubaiyat translated by Edward Fitzgerald. That has to be my absolute favourite.

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