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The Ubiquitous Present Tense


This morning, pulling into the school’s parking lot, I caught the tail-end of the news round up. I always have the radio on, even though the speakers are broken and I can only hear it during that brief space of time between shutting off the engine and taking the key out of the ignition.

“Dennis Hopper dies.” The guy says. Said.

Dennis Hopper died a couple days ago, so I think I must be hearing a reprise of some BBC broadcast. But then I wonder what I missed. If the reporter had actually been there as the actor was passing on. By his side. Play by play.

Of course, like the reporter, I was also taught to avoid gerunds, avoid passive language and use the present tense to give it all a feeling of immediacy. And, with the advent of twitter and other social media, which take our human desire to be “in the loop” to a ridiculous extreme, it would seem odd that our language would relax into a meditative or reflective tense, but at what point do we hit present tense overload?

I think with my perverted disappointment to have missed the reporter’s play by play was that point for me.

I am going to check out of the present tense and read an old fashioned novel today.