[Bards] What is a bard?

Jay Rudin rudin at ev1.net
Mon Jan 7 09:02:04 PST 2008

Excluding horse armor and other non-germane definitions, the Oxford English 
Dictionary gives 4 relevant definitions for the word "bard".  Websters 
Third gives 5 definitions or sub-definitions.  Even my little paperback 
Oxford American Dictionary gives 2.

There is not a single definition for this term (or any other non-jargon 
term in the English language), and therefore trying to figure out what the 
single definition is leads only to frustration.

I can't even give a clear definition for "dog" that unambiguously includes 
Great Danes, Pekinese, mutts and feral dogs, but excludes tame wolves, 
foxes and coyotes.  Nonetheless, I knew what a dog was by age 4.  How was I 
taught the meaning?  By pointing -- "That's a dog, that's one too, but 
that's a cat."

Similarly, we're working backwards.  We can't define a bard in words and 
then use that definition to determine if somebody is a bard.  (That's one 
of the problems with "standards".)  That's not how we primarily learn or 
use language.  Instead, we say "Ulf is a bard; Ihon is a bard, Donnchadh is 
a bard, Nyx is a bard, etc.", and any conclusion about what a bard is can 
be formed by induction from the concrete examples.

Don't sweat the definitions.  If you think you're a bard, and your audience 
thinks you're a bard, then you're a bard.

Robin of Gilwell / Jay Rudin 

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