Jeff Cooper's writing style question.


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Balrog
July 5, 2010, 07:32 PM
I love reading Jeff Cooper's writings, but have often wondered why he speaks in the plural rather than the singular when apparently referring to himself.

For example, rather than saying "I have noticed" he will usually write "We have noticed". Who is the "we" he is referring to?? He doesnt usually state a specific person, other than himself, to whom the "we" would refer.

He seems to pride himself on somewhat verbose and grammatically correct English, so I find this somewhat curious... or perhaps I should say, "we" find this somewhat curious.

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russ69
July 5, 2010, 07:38 PM
"We" refers to himself and his followers at his shooting school.

Thanx, Russ

K9american
July 5, 2010, 07:39 PM
It's called the "editorial we". Rather strict and "proper" writing form from (sadly) days gone by. Similar in origin to a writer saying "this writer" instead of just plain "I".

Fits with your depiction of his "verbose and grammatically correct English", no?

pmeisel
July 5, 2010, 07:41 PM
Cooper was educated in a more formal time, and adopted the most formal of acceptable writing styles for that period... in other words he was pretty stuffy and big-headed about his writing.

That said, he knew his stuff. The royal "we" aside there is not much about his commentary to find fault with.

PotatoJudge
July 5, 2010, 07:54 PM
Jeff Cooper's Commentaries
Previously Gunsite Gossip

Vol. 1, No. 1 June 1993

With this issue, I am abandoning the editorial "we" along with reference to Gunsite in the title since I no longer exercise control over the output of the Gunsite Press.

He did use the editorial "we" after this, but used "I" more frequently after this statement.

The Lone Haranguer
July 5, 2010, 08:01 PM
It certainly set him apart from the crowd. :D

Vonderek
July 5, 2010, 08:03 PM
I don't know I would classify his writing style as "bigheaded". On the contrary, the use of "we" instead of "I" is more of a technique so as not to appear egotistic.

Tinpig
July 5, 2010, 08:50 PM
I believe Mark Twain said something like:

"The term 'we' in referring to oneself, is usually reserved for editors, royalty, and people with tapeworms."

:)
Tinpig

CraigC
July 5, 2010, 08:52 PM
Elmer Keith did the same thing.

Carl N. Brown
July 5, 2010, 09:29 PM
In the olde days, using "we" was humble and using "I" was egotistical.

Balrog
July 5, 2010, 10:13 PM
In the olde days, using "we" was humble and using "I" was egotistical.

Cooper was old, but I am not sure that old.

Floppy_D
July 5, 2010, 10:43 PM
Thanks, Tinpig! I needed a good laugh. :D

yeti
July 5, 2010, 11:32 PM
Cooper was old, but I am not sure that old.

Nor that humble.

I think King Jeff was demonstrating the appropriate use of the Royal 'WE.'

heron
July 6, 2010, 12:15 PM
Maybe he meant it the way Dirty Harry did . . .

"Who's 'we'?"
"Me . . . Smith, and Wesson . . . "

ArmedBear
July 6, 2010, 12:26 PM
Personally, I think he meant to imply that he was speaking THE truth, not just his own opinion. Or maybe he was actually referring to work done by a group, not just him.

WRT ELmer Keith, I haven't read everything Keith wrote, but what I have read seems to use "we" when he was referring to experiments that he did with friends and colleagues. Sure, he was a guy who would carry a rifle in his vehicle or on his horse and just take pot shots at faraway rocks for practice (he was apparently a hell of an intuitive wind-reader because of this). But he also did a lot of experimenting in collaboration with some other guys.

Keith was, from all I can tell, a friendly and unassuming man, and would not have wanted to claim all the credit by writing "I" when he referred to work done by a group that included him.

Maybe Cooper was doing the same thing. Or maybe it was the Royal We. Or maybe a bit of both?

CraigC
July 6, 2010, 01:45 PM
Maybe Cooper was doing the same thing.
Could very well be. I would think it to be unfair to characterize its use by either man as an indication of some form of arrogance. However, let us also not forget the level of confidence and conviction required for these men to have attained the status they did in the industry and not condemn them for it.

Werewolf
July 6, 2010, 06:45 PM
It's called the "editorial we". Rather strict and "proper" writing form from (sadly) days gone by. Similar in origin to a writer saying "this writer" instead of just plain "I".

Fits with your depiction of his "verbose and grammatically correct English", no?
Absolutely correct...

Col Cooper grew up and was educated in a different time when one's style in spoken and written language was a small measure of the man.

ArmedBear
July 6, 2010, 07:52 PM
the level of confidence and conviction

Do you know about Elmer Keith's childhood, and his do-it-yourself reconstructive surgery and physical therapy?

There was nothing arrogant about that conviction. Read his life story sometime (Hell, I was There). It'll inspire you when you are feeling down about anything, and I mean ANYTHING.

Hangingrock
July 6, 2010, 07:57 PM
Cooper came from an affluent family that did not suffer thru the great depression. His family traveled to Europe prior to WW2 which included visits to Germany and Russia.

His service in WW2 as a Marine was aboard the battleship Pennsylvania commanding the Marine detachment. He also had duties within the ships gunnery department and surveying the effectiveness of naval gunfire.

During the Korean War he was in the clandestine service. He separated from the Marine Corps after hostilities.

He requested duty during Vietnam but was differed (to old in grade). Basically he had no command experience at platoon, company, and battalion level. At that time most Marine battalion commanders had prior command experience at platoon and company levels in WW2 and Korea.

I enjoyed his writings but taken with a grain of salt. He left his mark on pistol craft and marksmanship.

FLAvalanche
July 6, 2010, 07:58 PM
I always loved Cooper's writing style. Didn't always agree with what he wrote but it was always a joy reading it.

GRIZ22
July 6, 2010, 08:15 PM
It certainly set him apart from the crowd.

I think it's more of a leadership thing he learned in the USMC. A good leader never uses "I" when talking about accomplishments, always "we". We the team. You see this a lot in the military. Patton never said "I defeated the Nazis" he said "We". The book "We Led the Way", an autobiography of the formation of the Rangers, Col Darby always says we did this" or "we did that". You still see it in the military.

Drail
July 6, 2010, 10:22 PM
I have to agree with the theory of his Marine Corps background. It's all about teamwork. If "we" all work together "we" will win this war. He was from a different time (today it's all about the individual). I personally liked his writing style very much and I believe he advanced "practical" handgun shooting a great deal by simple experimentation and finding out what works and what does not. Almost no one was using both hands to shoot a pistol before Cooper and Weaver decided there was a better way.

Carl N. Brown
July 7, 2010, 02:15 PM
There is no "me" in "team", unless you rearrange the letters.

RainDodger
July 7, 2010, 02:22 PM
I found his style to be really irritating, especially when he used to spout off opinions about non-gun-related things.

I can't deny what he's done for our sport, but I can't stand to read his writings. JMHO. :)

searcher451
July 7, 2010, 02:31 PM
Much of this is personal preference, both on the part of the writer and certainly on the part of the reader. If you are interested in what the writer is telling you -- the guts of the information being presented -- then the style doesn't matter matter much, nor should it (just take a look at some of the writing quality on a gun forum on the internet :)).

Lots has been written on the subject -- take your pick:

http://yaegercommunications.com/?p=402

http://www.wikihow.com/Avoid-Colloquial-(Informal)-Writing

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-royal-we.htm

etc.

Walkalong
July 7, 2010, 02:50 PM
I liked his writing style. Another favorite was Ross Sefried. I wanted to buy everything he ever wrote about.

duns
July 7, 2010, 08:26 PM
From the Chicago Manual of Style:We is sometimes used by an individual who is speaking for a group {the council’s representative declared, “We appreciate your concern”} {the magazine’s editor wrote, “In our last issue, we covered the archaeological survey of Peru”}. This latter use is called the editorial we. Some writers also use we to make their prose appear less personal and to draw in the reader or listener {from these results we can draw only one conclusion}.

winknplink
July 8, 2010, 11:29 AM
ol Cooper grew up and was educated in a different time when one's style in spoken and written language was a small measure of the man.

Excellent point. What a shame that this mentality has dissolved.

Ever go back and listen to our former Presidents make speeches/addresses? Like Kennedy or Roosevelt? Pay attention to the diction and vocabulary used while addressing the American public. Those same speeches, if aimed at today's rank and file, would fall mostly on deaf ears because they simply could not follow the vernacular.

I, for one, am tired of seeing our language bastardized by the lazy and uneducated, which is what makes reading Cooper's works such a joy for me.

Balrog
July 8, 2010, 05:34 PM
Yea, I say we should all go back to Middle English.

shockwave
July 8, 2010, 05:42 PM
The use of the "editorial we" is not uncommon and most certainly not a quaint relic of days gone by. It is alive and well and still widely popular. In fact, most newspaper editorials employ it as a matter of course.

oldfool
July 8, 2010, 11:50 PM
I don't care
I never did mistake Jeff Cooper, nor Teddy Roosevelt for god
but regard both as the the finest and most enjoyable essayists I have ever read
I cannot read either one, without being reminded of the other
I wish we had more of them
YMMV

Jim K
July 9, 2010, 05:32 PM
In the Bible, God sometimes used the "royal we" in referring to himself. Any more questions?

Jim

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