Trivium One: Grammar

Cornelis Cort 1565 GrammarTaking a page from some recent correspondence with a fellow Mason, I decided to spend the next eight days or so going over the Trivium and the Quadrivium, with a brief interlude about the Quadrivium origin. Each day will be a brief example of the item, with a little fun thrown in. Less than 300 words each, consider them liberal arts bites.

Therefore, for today, I give you Grammar.


Grammar is the skill of knowing language. In order to form sound reasoning, one must be able to learn the words, sentence structure, and forms that make up their language and thereby, communicate clearly and with confidence. In classical training, Grammar is the “who, what, why, when, and how” of understanding and knowledge. Grammar is taught more mechanically in the modern age, which does a disservice:  humans need more than nuts and bolts to create clear ideas and communicate them. Much of what we need to learn goes beyond the adverb or adjective.

An example of this is figures of speech. Figures of speech are the use of any of a variety of techniques to give an auxiliary meaning, idea, or feeling. An example of this is dysphemism. This is the use of a harsh, more offensive word instead of one considered less harsh. Dysphemism is often contrasted with euphemism. Dysphemisms are generally used to shock or offend. Examples of dysphemism are “cancer stick” for cigarette, “ “belly bomb” for doughnut, and “treeware” for books. Examples of euphemisms are lighter, such as “between jobs” for unemployed, or “passed away” for death. Knowing the difference of these two figures of speechgrandpa allows the audience to be placed in a certain frame of mind and creates a scene for the next stages of what is to be communicated.

As our use of grammar grows, we need to understand how figures of speech like this work and use them effectively when we will eventually make our case (rhetoric) via the tool of language organized into thought (logic). Thus, the Freemason should understand not only the technical grammar of his own language, but also how the tools of grammar may be applied to the body of human knowledge for further study. In order to communicate his own interpretation of the symbolism of Freemasonry, as well as what he learns from the natural world around him, the study of grammar, regardless of the age of the individual, is pivotal.  To be able to instruct, to learn deference, and to be able to speak with authority, the Freemason must concern himself with the very basic study of communication.

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