THE JOINT


"The time is out of joint."
(Hamlet)

"Joint" may be the hippest word in the English language. Not only does it play a key role in one of the most famous sentences of all time, it can be used to mean both a marijuana cigarette and the male sexual organ. It can refer to a night club and to a prison. Or it can refer to a work of popular culture like a song or a film ("a Spike Lee joint," for example). If you're hip enough, I imagine, it can be used to refer to any work of art.

Indeed, the word "art" stems from the Latin for "joint". A work of art puts things together. A venue—"the little joint down the street"—brings people together for an evening. Hamlet was living in a world that was coming apart because of the lies told by the current king about the death of the previous king. To expose the lie he put on a play. That was his joint. I suppose, in one sense, this website is my joint, as, in another, is this page.

To be articulate is not just to speak clearly. It is to be able to join words together in meaningful ways. And meaning is use. A good joint doesn't just keep things together, it gives them a particular range of motion, it limits their usefulness but also makes it more precise. You limit their range of meaning but also focus their effect. A piece of writing (like an art-icle) is internally jointed—in its sentences and its paragraphs—but also joined to the outside world—to its themes and its readers. There are specific points of connection between your text and the work of others. One joins a conversation.



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