{ thinking out loud about the things i care about }

Posts Tagged ‘language’

The Periodic Table of Storytelling

Friday, April 8th, 2011

A quick post to share this, which my pop-culture, literary and fiction-filled soul adores. ComputerSherpa posted this fantastic chart of some of the core storytelling tropes inspired by the periodic table and it’s fantastic.

Click through to see the full size chart and some of the sample “compounds” you can create with these tropes.

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A Lesson in Language from Stephen Fry

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

An essay on language from Stephen Fry has been turned into a completely lovely little Kinetic Typography video.

I love language. Most specifically I suppose I love English since it’s the only one I know how to use, but I do try to use it well. And when I say “well” what I mean isn’t always “correctly” or “properly”. Sometimes “well” means “creatively”. Or “uniquely”. Or even “colloquially”.

Not too long ago I inadvertently got into a bit of a Twitter argument with a surprisingly number of people on whether or not the Oxford comma was a necessity. Should it always be used? Is it necessary? And ultimately somewhere in that long, surprisingly passionate argument was a discussion about the merits of “proper” language as critical for the sake of communication. Stephen Fry’s comments on the nuance between “disinterested” and “uninterested” most perfectly embodies that argument: in particular my side of it.

The nuance of words is and can be important in the right context. In a political speech or poem the difference between disinterested and uninterested could be of great import. But that doesn’t mean it always has to be of great import. The great flexibility of language is that can stretch or shrink as we require it, and as the culture that uses it changes, so too can language.

I know some writers dislike the way texting, tweeting and online chatting has distorted language in ways that are leaking into the vernacular — both written and spoken — but I delight in it. I enjoy the eyerolling nuance writing “LOL” adds that the word “laugh” doesn’t in itself contain. I love how changing “the” to “teh” modifies the entire tone of a sentence, how emoticons clarify intent in two or three characters, and how Twitter hashtags can be functional, thematic and humorous all at the same time.

There is absolutely a place for proper language, just like there is a place for the Oxford comma. But the language we use today is as fluid as it has ever been, and in a world that changes as rapidly as ours I want a language free to adapt and change with it. Language can’t and shouldn’t remain static.

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Evolution of Language

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

This is an interesting article about the artificial constraints we tend to put on what, exactly, constitutes a “real word”. I have often made a similar argument in dinner-table discussions when my father insists that some word I have said “isn’t a word”, and once went so far as to look up the word “word” in the massive dictionary my father keeps in his office. To qualify, it seems a word needs only three things: it must be composed of one or more syllables, be utterable by a human, and convey an idea or meaning. It does not, as it turns out, have to appear in a dictionary to count as a word.

 

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