The World

[as I find it]

A first analysis of a phrase: ‘building a road’

We use the phrase “building a road.” It seems odd, at first: roads are not so much built as left behind. To make a road, one clears away the trees and the rocks and whatever else is in the way. It isn’t a constructive process. A road is where we have removed some obstacles. (I am thinking of “roads” that are simply made of dirt. It is more obvious that “streets,” “highways,” “avenues,” and so forth must be built. These are roads, but they are not roads in so unqualified a sense.)

But we do build roads, even dirt ones. We bring in gravel and mound them gently, so that water runs off to the sides. We put culverts beneath them. We direct them toward places and around things that are too difficult to pass through or over. We mark their beginnings and ends. And we repeat all these things, in different seasons, to maintain what we’ve built.

The phrase is the right one, then, and almost inadvertently so.


Written by whereofwecannotspeak

May 27, 2006 at 11:55 pm

One Response

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  1. Perhaps I’m just embitter by living in Cambridge too long, but my idea of ‘building a road’ is to following a herd of cows in whatever direction you’re able to convince them to walk in. Cows are not civil engineers, and any such qualified person would have an aneurysm when looking at Boston’s infrastructure.


    February 14, 2008 at 3:06 pm

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