One word I don’t like to use is the word “attempt.” I should clarify that I’m not saying that I try anything. I don’t like to use the word “attempt” as a synonym for the word “try” as it feels weird to me. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I don’t use the word “attempt” as a noun. For example, I don’t say that when I wrote the Stone Force novels years ago I made an attempt at writing novels. I wrote them. They may have not come out well but I wrote them. I made three albums for the RPM Challenge, two of which were only demo quality. I don’t say that I made attempts at albums. I made them. They don’t sound too well, but then again, at least in the case of the first one that adds to their charm.
What annoys me the most is using “attempt” in this manner is usually false humility.This is especially the case when somebody is in the middle of something. “I’m making an attempt at a cake.” No, you’re making a cake. By using “attempt” in this manner the person is stating that it might come out badly. It’s a way to set one’s self up for disappointment and critique. By acting sheepish the speaker is hoping to soften the negative reviews of whatever it is he or she is doing. This is weak and counter-productive. The same goes for when people give reviews. They try to use the word “attempt” when they don’t want to offend the person whose work they’re reviewing. “Well, it was a good attempt at a cake.” In other words, the cake was crap.
Before anybody combs through my blog and sends me comments, I’m sure that I’ve used the word in this manner before. As usual with any sort of language that I get picky about I’m usually just as guilty as anybody else. In this case, it my thoughts above occurred to me when I was meditating a little while before writing this blog. I’m not sure where the thought came from, but then again, that’s the point of meditation, right? Then again, maybe that’s just because I was only making an attempt at meditation.
The same critique goes for the use of “try my hand.” It essentially means the same thing: “I’m going to try my hand at knitting a sweater.” It sounds a little more utilitarian in this case, as if it’s something only artisans do or something. I notice it’s only used from the point of view of the person making the whatever-it-is. You don’t get it from the reviewer. “That sweater is a good hand-try.”
I close today’s blog not with a salient conclusion but with a train of thought stemming from the previous paragraph that’s only slightly related. I do this because a.it’s something that I wanted to say before but I couldn’t fit it anywhere and b.this post would be too short otherwise. In the phrase “try my hand” we get the “my hand.” I always feel weird using a possessive pronoun when referring to parts of me. I would rather say “the hand part of me” than “my hand.” But even “of me” should be “myself.” Am I me or myself? I understand it makes the language easier but I wonder how it affects our psychology.
I shall not make an attempt to find out.