17 posts tagged language
do you guys know how many times i had to read this paper in college
it was a lot of times, and you should also read it, maybe also a lot of times
“Furthermore, the appearance of success or failure may be highly ambiguous and misleading. This ambiguity is perhaps best illustrated with dyke: although dyke continues to be used pejoratively, it is often used positively, with pride, by the in-group. Indeed, because of its very pejoration, dyke claims a political fierceness and anti-assimilationism that lesbian lacks, the latter seen to appeal to male, heterosexual, white, middle-class taste. Again, although they may share a common denotation, the connotations are extremely different. Has dyke failed as a reclaimed word since the out-group continues to use it as hate speech? Or does its in-group use alone testify to its success?”
At first read a bit cutesy and a few things I’d contest (like that simplification of female fashion which though I appreciate the sentiment is surely more complex, and the sort of dismissal of exterior thought as somehow lesser, and of course I’d want more on the semiotics of it all and the parallels between clothing and language, and also more about the clothing as armor/protection, which is something I’ve discussed before a bit.) But come on, Umberto Eco wrote this in 1976 about how his tight jeans squashing his junk made him think about the relations between clothes and thought and women/constructed sartorial femininity and language. How could I NOT waste a quarter of an hour typing most of the two pages out for y’all? And besides, it gave me a reason to google funny things like “pants” and “trousers” for the sake of providing you all with the highly relevant Wallace and Gromit image above.
The jeans didn’t pinch, but they made their presence felt…. As a result, I lived in the knowledge that I had jeans on, whereas normally we live forgetting that we’re wearing undershorts or trousers. I lived for my jeans, and as a result I assumed the exterior behavior of one who wears jeans. In any case, I assumed a demeanor… I discussed it at length, especially with consultants of the opposite sex, from whom I learned what, for that matter, I had already suspected: that for women experiences of this kind are familiar because all their garments are conceived to impose a demeanor—high heels, girdles, brassieres, pantyhose, tight sweaters.
I thought then about how much, in the history of civilization, dress as armor has influenced behavior and, in consequence, exterior morality. The Victorian bourgeois was stiff and formal because of stiff collars; the nineteenth-century gentleman was constrained by his tight redingotes, boots, and top hats that didn’t allow brusque movements of the head. If Vienna had been on the equator and its bourgeoisie had gone around in Bermuda shorts, would Freud have described the same neurotic symptoms, the same Oedipal triangles? And would he have described them in the same way if he, the doctor, had been a Scot, in a kilt (under which, as everyone knows, the rule is to wear nothing)?
But the problem of my jeans led me to other observations. Not only did the garment impose a demeanor on me; by focusing my attention on demeanor, it obliged me to live towards the exterior world…I thought about the relationship between me and my pants, and the relationship between my pants and me and the society we lived in. I had achieved heteroconsciousness, that is to say, an epidermic self-awareness.
I realized then that thinkers, over the centuries, have fought to free themselves of armor. Warriors lived an exterior life, all enclosed in cuirasses and tunics; but monks had invented a habit that, while fulfilling, on its own, the requirements of demeanor (majestic, flowing, all of a piece, so that it fell in statuesque folds), it left the body (inside, underneath) completely free and unaware of itself. Monks were rich in interior life and very dirty, because the body, protected by a habit that, ennobling it, released it, was free to think, and to forget about itself… And when even the intellectual must dress in lay armor (wigs, waistcoats, knee breeches) we see that when he retires to think, he swaggers in rich dressing-gowns, or in Balzac’s loose, drolatique blouses. Thought abhors tights.
But if armor obliges its wearer to live the exterior life, then the age-old female spell is due also to the fact that society has imposed armors on women, forcing them to neglect the exercise of thought. Woman has been enslaved by fashion not only because, in obliging her to be attractive, to maintain an ethereal demeanor, to be pretty and stimulating, it made her a sex object; she has been enslaved chiefly because the clothing counseled for her forced her psychologically to live for the exterior. And this makes us realize how intellectually gifted and heroic a girl had to be before she could become, in those clothes, Madame de Sevigne, Victoria Colonna, Madame Curie, or Rosa Luxemburg.
….A final reflection—in imposing an exterior demeanor, clothes are semiotic devices, machines for communicating. This was known, but there had been no attempt to illustrate the parallel with the syntactic structures of language, which, in the opinion of many people, influence our view of the world. The syntactic structures of fashions also influence our view of the world, and in a far more physical way than the consecutio tempomm or the existence of the subjunctive.
— Umberto Eco, Lumbar Thought, 1976
…the reviewer’s rhetoric echoes a familiar view of technology as a binary opposition, with human connection on one side and computers on the other….To my mind, the relocation of social life to the internet is less a signal of the domination of machines or the loss of human connection than the perfect argument against anyone who claims the internet is making us stupid…. Internet socialization is far closer to a 19th century mode of intimacy than to a dystopian future of tragically disconnected robot prostitutes. There’s a Jane Austen-ish quality to online social life. The written word gains unmatched power and inarguable primacy.
Personal relationships now, to a much greater degree than, say, 30 years ago, hinge on our ability to write — if not necessarily well in a formal, Strunk & White manner, then at least effectively. This change makes us not disconnected so much as it makes us archaic. Austen’s characters easily expressed extreme emotion in long letters and then in person sat twitchily near one another, paralyzed with manners…. Our physical reactions when together are often cover-ups for what we could so candidly admit in writing.
I actually LITERALLY SQUEALED IRL while reading this, possibly because I live for defenses of antisocial textual introverts (hi world!!) and because I effing love media and above all things loathe Kids Today/The Internet Is Ruining Our Lives articles (not that there aren’t PROBLEMS but really this isn’t THE END OF EVERYTHING) and above all things really dig anything about language and bodies and text and bodies of text and ‘textual intimacy’ and I mean, yeah.
Fitzgerald’s Jane Austen comment is interesting to me as well on a number of levels — we all know how I feel about Janie by now (and I’m guessing a lot of y’all are also familiar with the good time provided to us by our dear friend Eve K.S.) — and I think there’s a lot of interesing stuff going on there regarding technology alienation repression society norms blah blah blahdy blah blah, but for the most part just a really big YES THANK YOU.
While y’all are busy gushing over pencil skirts and skinny ties (not that I’m not), here’s another fun little bit of linguistic assholery about linguistic anachronisms in Mad Men. More at Visual Thesaurus, too.
Articulacy of fingers, the language of the deaf and dumb, signing on the body, body longing. Who taught you to write in blood on my back? Who taught you to use your hands as branding irons? You have scored your name into my shoulders, referenced me with your mark. The pads of your fingers have become printing blocks, you tap a message on to my skin, tap meaning into my body. Your Morse code interferes with my heart beat. I had a steady heart before I met you, I relied upon it, it had seen active service and grown strong. Now you alter its pace with your own rhythm, you play upon me, drumming me taut.
Written on the body is a secret code only visible in certain lights; the accumulations of a lifetime gather there. In places the palimpsest is so heavily worked that the letters feel like Braille. I like to keep my body rolled up away from prying eyes. Never unfold too much, tell the whole story. I didn’t know that you would have reading hands. You have translated me into your own book.
— Jeanette Winterson
…or my way of showing off my heavy-handed uber-metaphorical new ink (hay guys text and bodies and bodies of text and gay stuff and alphabets and language and metaphors about blindness and touch and vision and writing and maps and codes and history and histories and fiction and stories and more heavy handed overintellectual queer garbage zomgz)
Here’s some lingustistic geekery about the verbification of Google, Bing’s hopeless aspirations that we’ll all be Bing-ing instead one day, and the weird legal issues involved with brand names becoming generic nouns and/or verbs (kleenex, xerox, netflix, youtube etc….While we’re at it, band-aid, velcro, astroturf, q-tips, rolodex, tampax, and saran wrap are surprisingly also brand names that became generic…and there are plenty more.) Fun fun fun!
LINGUISTICS TATTOOS. Oh boy. Why had THIS (namely, IPA and other FUN STUFF LIKE THAT! I hope some of my old college roommates are reading this and have terrible flashback memories of me sitting at my desk chanting words over and over again to transcribe them: ‘kitten. kitten. kitten. kitten. is that ʔ or t??’) not yet occurred to me as a goldmine of faux-hyperintellectual-brouhaha body art inspiration?!?! And a whole gallery of nerdy awesome science tattoos. Via LanguageLog, obvi.
My minor/correllate in college was this completely fabricated (and completely awesome) linguistics/anthropology/media studies track which I somehow got the anth department to approve and call “langauge, new media, and expressive culture.” Which basically came down to a lot of crap about, like, what languages people use on their Facebook walls, how blogs perpetuate certain linguistic style amongst their commenters to create a community (Gawker vs Perez vs HRO), the fact that abbreviations for texting/tweeting etc are creative adaptations to constrants and not the end of the English language (fuck you, prescriptivists), what the actual logic of cat macro text (“LOLSPEAK”) is and academizing other various 4chan garbage and memes, and then an awful lot using Google for statistics on when and where phrases or alternate spellings became popular. Man, was that all useless and awesome or what.
Point of all that was that I totally miss it a few years later, which is why things like this make me cream my linguistpants. (Also, you know, links including Monty Python sketches never hurt anyone.) Top records / videos / films of the year? Yawn (though I’m sure I’ll post my own lists at some point.) Top searched words of the year at Merrimam-Webster??! Hell yes! Dictionary.com’s top lists are a bit less reassuring though - I’m not sure if I should be depressed or proud of the American public that so many of them needed to look up the definition of “socialism.”
AND FACEBOOK IS CLEARLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DEGRADATION OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE! KIDS TODAY!!11!!!11
This article devolves into the argument that’s one of my ultimate pet peeves — “Is the internet good or bad? Does Facebook make people happier or more depressed? Is technology making us fat/lazy/stupid or smart/social/aware?” — but starts out with some great stuff about “social networks” being, you know, a sociological phenomenon prior to their being an internet phenomenon, activity, and marketing technique, and essentially is more or less what I find so f*#%ing fascinating about digital social environments in general: they reflect how we act in ‘real life.’ (This, in turn, is why I get annoyed at people complaining about the amount of garbage on the internet: there’s a lot of garbage and mean people out there IRL too — we just don’t have 24/7 instant access to it and it’s easier to filter.)
It’s something so patently obvious — you do what your friends do, and you spend time with the same groups of people, you talk and therefore type and text like them, you even use the same computers as them (seriously, had a conversation earlier today about “pc/google” versus “mac/apple” friends) and your patterns of behavior are similar to theirs, and this is relevant on all sorts of levels, from your coworkers, to your friends, to your subculture and national identity, etc etc… The internet didn’t create these things, it just lets us being to observe and quantify them more easily (be that for fun or academia, or, uh, you know, business) — from Trendsmap to Facebook Lexicon (one of my favourite things ever) and more ‘marketing-y’ tools like Radian.
confusion over WTF = FTW. [via Language Log]
Technorati’s 2008 State of the Blogosphere, as rehashed by (guilty as charged) my perennial favourite blogs over at Contexts. Mostly just a bunch of fun charts’n’graphs about demographics and advertising, but oddly compelling. They’ve managed a few myopic analyses about gender and money and whatnot, but there’s a whole nifty section on the interpersonal aspect of all this intarwebs stuff and how it impacts and interacts with blogger’s “real lives.”
Which sort of made me want to see some statistics on people’s comfort levels with ‘internet friendships’ and how they’ve changed over the years as ‘social’ media developed and as the lines between ‘media’ and ‘real life’ began to blur more. We’ll be honest here — I’m one of those 47% with real-life friends (and good ones, and good ones I haven’t met IRL too) who started out as internet buddies or fellow bloggers or message board buddies or more recently, contacts made in college in the early days of Facebook (“Hey! Saw you took Blahblahblah220 last semester!”) and people I’ve reached out to as work contacts.
Totally tempted also to post one of my senior seminar powerpoints/lectures on ‘blog as community’ from college, but I’ll spare y’all and don’t want to dig it off my external anyhow. But oh, there were statistical analyses on grammar, spelling, creative/’transgressive orthography’, etc of Gakwer vs. Perez commenters, which is one of the most obvious things ever but man, do I love that shit or what. Which isn’t just me waxing nostalgic for days when doing this stuff was leisurely and involved a castle-like library rather than a cubicle — but I’d still love to see these demographics of writers lined up against their readers and compare gender/income/etc etc. (Gawker Media’s stats are enough of a soc creamfest for me to begin with.)
Fleshmap graphs out a breakdown of mentions of body parts in the lyrics of songs across genres, which is pretty interesting. Aside from this being massively questionable as ‘research’ (what database of songs did they use? how did they determine genre? what were the years of publication of the songs, and from what countries? why is it that it’s sort of like ‘details of many types of music made by white people but all music from black people it totally just hip-hop or R+B and here’s our proof that all they sing about is butts, which is underlined by our using totally white bread stock photos instead of something neutral like illustrations?’ what could this indicate other than what is ‘valued’ in the genre? did we count words twice in one song, throwing off songs with a more traditional verse-chorus-verse structure, which is also something that varies by genre?) but before I get carried away again — look! Pretty graphs! And funny little photos of body parts!
From is a brilliant analysis of word usage in first messages on OKCupid, and whether that sender got a response.
At the risk of making everyone think I am insane: this is the coolest link I have ever posted.
Dear everyone who doesn’t understand what I went to college for: THIS IS PRECISELY IT. This is what my bullshit made up minor-that-was-almost-a-major-but-I-wimped-out “Language Media and Expressive Culture” is all about. I am so excited this exists it’s retarded. OKcupid fulfills my greatest dreams, ever, with all these charts and graphs of message trending, word occurance…. I’m seriously freaking out. No, seriously. Charts and graphs and analyses of socioinguistic performativity in the environment in which people are most concerned about self-presentation (that is, a highly controlled profile which one has, presumably, created to get laid and/or fall in love?!?!! How we use language to present ourselves when looking for a potential “mate” in a structured, quantifiable new-media social environment?! Language and power and geography and gender and sex and the social/digital environment and every possible social variable ever??!?! OH GOD.
The chart above is interesting — albeit presented as goofy “dating advice” from statistics (could we get any goonier?) — because it’s about something close to my heart — linguistic quantification/hedging and its relation to gender (something which gets nauseatingly provincial unbelievably fast.) While constantly debatable (and context is a huge determining factor for outcomes of these studies) and very little can every be extrapolated or generalized from this, it’s usually observed that women hedge or quantify more often (be that conditioning, performativity, WHATEVER)… so women (who are looking for a mate) respond better to men who are “less alpha” or “less patriarchal” when approaching a mate (as theoretically indicated by the inclusion of a hedge) — is this conscious or subconscious? What if we throw the bullshit gender comparisons out the window and just look at it through the frame of politeness and engagement? But then I want this chart lined up against non-heterosexual interactions though, and female-to-male….
Also interesting (and downright amusing) are some of their maps/graphs of survey question answers per state (with a sample size waay larger than any Gallup poll) as well as more charts about stuff like message length and conversations, etc.
Hey guys, I was almost a sociolinguistics major in college but then decided English would be more practical and now I work in music/tech/marketing and blog about fashion and photography and feminism and NYC and, uh, linguistics? IT’S REALLY INTERESTING I SWEAR.