Do big words yield big emotions? Faulkner thought so. Hemingway, not so much.

This, I should tell you now, isn’t about comparing the novels of great American writers.

See, even the biggest personalities in the world sometimes find themselves in the middle of a feud. Alexander Hamilton vs. Aaron Burr. Biggie vs. Tupac. Hatfields vs. McCoys. Hemingway vs. Faulkner?

Rarely do literary names get tossed around when speaking of such rivalries, but in the 1950’s arguably the two biggest names in the industry took a shot at one another.

Following the release of Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, William Faulkner was asked for a comment on the book. This is what he said about Hemingway:

“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.” — William Faulkner

Hemingway and his larger-than-life personality (and ego) would not let the comment pass without a rebuttal. He responded:

“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.” — Ernest Hemingway

Nothing like a couple of literary giants going at it!

Now, if they wanted to argue, that’s fine. The world probably ate it up. They were two of the biggest names in the country at the time, after all. But this isn’t about the feud itself. Rather, it is about what was said. Let’s learn from the great ones: Do big emotions come from big words?

Here is my main point: we find ourselves immersed in constant deception and polarization in our culture today. Call it political. Call it strategic, or necessary, or unjust. Whatever it appears to be on the surface, boil it down. The truth will likely lie from what remains.

Don’t be fooled by the big words attempting to yield big emotion. But likewise, don’t be fooled by the big emotion attempting to yield unquestioned belief.

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