so i’ve been really frustrated b/c i’ve had unprecedented problems with the formatting here on the free wordpress platform;  i’ve been annoyed enough to consider switching to another provider, but i’ve put in considerable love and time on this site and have grown rather attached…

so the deal is, i recently had a lucky happenstance that is motivating another attempt at an update, and hopefully resolves the whole cutting and pasting/line break chaos bullshit that’s been happening on here: i stumbled upon a webpage that does precisely what i was going to do for this post, which is a side by side of stephen mitchell’s translation of orpheus. eurydice. hermes., with one that is more traditional. i have a long standing preoccupation with translational comparison, and Mitchell’s brilliance in this case becomes instantly apparent–it is honestly the most extreme and satisfying example of what vital role interpretation plays when bringing a work to a new language–and it happens to be done with my all time favourite lyrical piece, to boot.

p.s. so i am currently staying true to my decision to not provide any bios for the poets like i had done with the previous theorists and authors, in spite of considerable temptation when it comes to Rilke, for whom i have a particular soft spot. however i may not resist forever, and after all, why should i really? the rationale was that i didn’t want to clutter or distract from the beauty of  how these people make words (and hearts) dance. so logically, the intrigue and delight of their personhoods can still be conveyed in a separate context… say in the form of a straight biographic post? perhaps including others who haven’t been represented in this brief series, but whose antics and tribulations are in themselves an artform? just a thought, i’m gonna let it percolate. 🙂

anyway, here is the link to what i consider the epitome of poetry. i realize that is a melodramatic and  even oxymoronic statement to make.  i’m just in a mood tonight. the point is it’s the real thing. oh, and here’s a portrait, for some semblance of consistency:

 

rilke1904

rainer maria

On a slightly different note, here is a longer piece by a poet I was surprised to discover a few years ago. It made me cry the first time i read it. Works best aloud (and alone).

Interim by Edna St. Vincent Millay

The room is full of you! — As I came in
And closed the door behind me, all at once
A something in the air, intangible,
Yet stiff with meaning, struck my senses sick! —

millay

Sharp, unfamiliar odors have destroyed
Each other room’s dear personality.
The heavy scent of damp, funereal flowers, —
The very essence, hush-distilled, of Death —
Has strangled that habitual breath of home
Whose expiration leaves all houses dead;
And wheresoe’er I look is hideous change.
Save here.  Here ’twas as if a weed-choked gate
Had opened at my touch, and I had stepped
Into some long-forgot, enchanted, strange,
Sweet garden of a thousand years ago
And suddenly thought, “I have been here before!”

You are not here.  I know that you are gone,
And will not ever enter here again.
And yet it seems to me, if I should speak,
Your silent step must wake across the hall;
If I should turn my head, that your sweet eyes
Would kiss me from the door. — So short a time
To teach my life its transposition to
This difficult and unaccustomed key! —
The room is as you left it; your last touch —
A thoughtless pressure, knowing not itself
As saintly — hallows now each simple thing;
Hallows and glorifies, and glows between
The dust’s grey fingers like a shielded light.

There is your book, just as you laid it down,
Face to the table, — I cannot believe
That you are gone! — Just then it seemed to me
You must be here.  I almost laughed to think
How like reality the dream had been;
Yet knew before I laughed, and so was still.
That book, outspread, just as you laid it down!
Perhaps you thought, “I wonder what comes next,
And whether this or this will be the end”;
So rose, and left it, thinking to return.

Perhaps that chair, when you arose and passed
Out of the room, rocked silently a while
Ere it again was still. When you were gone
Forever from the room, perhaps that chair,
Stirred by your movement, rocked a little while,
Silently, to and fro. . .

And here are the last words your fingers wrote,
Scrawled in broad characters across a page
In this brown book I gave you. Here your hand,
Guiding your rapid pen, moved up and down.
Here with a looping knot you crossed a “t”,
And here another like it, just beyond
These two eccentric “e’s”.  You were so small,
And wrote so brave a hand!
How strange it seems
That of all words these are the words you chose!
And yet a simple choice; you did not know
You would not write again.  If you had known —
But then, it does not matter, — and indeed
If you had known there was so little time
You would have dropped your pen and come to me
And this page would be empty, and some phrase
Other than this would hold my wonder now.
Yet, since you could not know, and it befell
That these are the last words your fingers wrote,
There is a dignity some might not see
In this, “I picked the first sweet-pea to-day.”
To-day!  Was there an opening bud beside it
You left until to-morrow? — O my love,
The things that withered, — and you came not back!
That day you filled this circle of my arms
That now is empty.  (O my empty life!)
That day — that day you picked the first sweet-pea, —
And brought it in to show me!  I recall
With terrible distinctness how the smell
Of your cool gardens drifted in with you.
I know, you held it up for me to see
And flushed because I looked not at the flower,
But at your face; and when behind my look
You saw such unmistakable intent
You laughed and brushed your flower against my lips.
(You were the fairest thing God ever made,
I think.)  And then your hands above my heart
Drew down its stem into a fastening,
And while your head was bent I kissed your hair.
I wonder if you knew.  (Beloved hands!
Somehow I cannot seem to see them still.
Somehow I cannot seem to see the dust
In your bright hair.)  What is the need of Heaven
When earth can be so sweet? — If only God
Had let us love, — and show the world the way!
Strange cancellings must ink th’ eternal books
When love-crossed-out will bring the answer right!
That first sweet-pea!  I wonder where it is.
It seems to me I laid it down somewhere,
And yet, — I am not sure. I am not sure,
Even, if it was white or pink; for then
‘Twas much like any other flower to me,
Save that it was the first.  I did not know,
Then, that it was the last.  If I had known —
But then, it does not matter.  Strange how few,
After all’s said and done, the things that are
Of moment.
Few indeed!  When I can make
Of ten small words a rope to hang the world!
“I had you and I have you now no more.”
There, there it dangles, — where’s the little truth
That can for long keep footing under that
When its slack syllables tighten to a thought?
Here, let me write it down!  I wish to see
Just how a thing like that will look on paper!

“*I had you and I have you now no more*.”

edna_l

O little words, how can you run so straight
Across the page, beneath the weight you bear?
How can you fall apart, whom such a theme
Has bound together, and hereafter aid
In trivial expression, that have been
So hideously dignified? — Would God
That tearing you apart would tear the thread
I strung you on!  Would God — O God, my mind
Stretches asunder on this merciless rack
Of imagery!  O, let me sleep a while!
Would I could sleep, and wake to find me back
In that sweet summer afternoon with you.
Summer?  ‘Tis summer still by the calendar!
How easily could God, if He so willed,
Set back the world a little turn or two!
Correct its griefs, and bring its joys again!

We were so wholly one I had not thought
That we could die apart.  I had not thought
That I could move, — and you be stiff and still!
That I could speak, — and you perforce be dumb!
I think our heart-strings were, like warp and woof
In some firm fabric, woven in and out;
Your golden filaments in fair design
Across my duller fibre.  And to-day
The shining strip is rent; the exquisite
Fine pattern is destroyed; part of your heart
Aches in my breast; part of my heart lies chilled
In the damp earth with you.  I have been torn
In two, and suffer for the rest of me.
What is my life to me?  And what am I
To life, — a ship whose star has guttered out?
A Fear that in the deep night starts awake
Perpetually, to find its senses strained
Against the taut strings of the quivering air,
Awaiting the return of some dread chord?

Dark, Dark, is all I find for metaphor;
All else were contrast, — save that contrast’s wall
Is down, and all opposed things flow together
Into a vast monotony, where night
And day, and frost and thaw, and death and life,
Are synonyms.  What now — what now to me
Are all the jabbering birds and foolish flowers
That clutter up the world?  You were my song!
Now, let discord scream!  You were my flower!
Now let the world grow weeds!  For I shall not
Plant things above your grave — (the common balm
Of the conventional woe for its own wound!)
Amid sensations rendered negative
By your elimination stands to-day,
Certain, unmixed, the element of grief;
I sorrow; and I shall not mock my truth
With travesties of suffering, nor seek
To effigy its incorporeal bulk
In little wry-faced images of woe.

I cannot call you back; and I desire
No utterance of my immaterial voice.
I cannot even turn my face this way
Or that, and say, “My face is turned to you”;
I know not where you are, I do not know
If Heaven hold you or if earth transmute,
Body and soul, you into earth again;
But this I know: — not for one second’s space
Shall I insult my sight with visionings
Such as the credulous crowd so eager-eyed
Beholds, self-conjured, in the empty air.
Let the world wail!  Let drip its easy tears!
My sorrow shall be dumb!

— What do I say?
God! God! — God pity me!  Am I gone mad
That I should spit upon a rosary?
Am I become so shrunken?  Would to God
I too might feel that frenzied faith whose touch
Makes temporal the most enduring grief;
Though it must walk a while, as is its wont,
With wild lamenting!  Would I too might weep
Where weeps the world and hangs its piteous wreaths
For its new dead!  Not Truth, but Faith, it is
That keeps the world alive.  If all at once
Faith were to slacken, — that unconscious faith
Which must, I know, yet be the corner-stone
Of all believing, — birds now flying fearless
Across would drop in terror to the earth;
Fishes would drown; and the all-governing reins
Would tangle in the frantic hands of God
And the worlds gallop headlong to destruction!

O God, I see it now, and my sick brain
Staggers and swoons!  How often over me
Flashes this breathlessness of sudden sight
In which I see the universe unrolled
Before me like a scroll and read thereon
Chaos and Doom, where helpless planets whirl
Dizzily round and round and round and round,
Like tops across a table, gathering speed
With every spin, to waver on the edge
One instant — looking over — and the next
To shudder and lurch forward out of sight —

Edna_St._Vincent_Millay

Ah, I am worn out — I am wearied out —
It is too much — I am but flesh and blood,
And I must sleep.  Though you were dead again,
I am but flesh and blood and I must sleep.

So I had what I thought would be an easily executed inspiration of simply doing a series of my favourite poems [by definition doomed to remain incomplete]. this is of course followed by the classic impulse to initiate with orpheus. eurydice. hermes. obviously the first choice. low and behold what do i discover but that all the quality translators protect their work from us virtual vultures… not a single half decent copy to be found, and i spent some considerable amount of hours searching into the netherweb. I suppose i could check the local library to see what editions they have, however i have my favourite copy in colorado, so i figure i’ll just wait the couple of weeks. serendipitously, this may be the ideal example to demonstrate my obsession with the comparative translation game. in the meanwhile, allow me to refer you to a couple of old (short) standbyes: e.e. cummings’ self explanatory masterpiece, and a lesser-known but so subtle and effective piece by W.H. Auden (also rather challenging to track down):

 

eei carry your heart with me(i carry it in

my heart)i am never without it(anywhere

i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done

by only me is your doing,my darling)

i fear

no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want

no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of a sky of a tree called life;which grows

higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Untitled [5.] by W.H. Auden

wh-audenWatch any day his nonchalant pauses, see
His dextrous handling of a wrap as he
Steps after into cars, the beggar's envy.

"There is a free one," many say, but err.
He is not that returning conqueror,
Nor ever the poles' circumnavigator.

But poised between shocking falls on razor-edge
                    Has taught himself this balancing subterfuge
                    Of the accosting profile, the erect carriage.

                          The song, the varied action of the blood
                          Would drown the warning from the iron wood
                          Would cancel the inertia of the buried:

                          Travelling by daylight on from house to house
                          The longest way to the intrinsic peace,
                          With love's fidelity and with love's weakness.

Speaking of loving words, here are a few that i have added to the dictionary in my heart over the past month year or so. they all came to me in random and unrelated manners, however, i have come to notice a sort of spontaneous coherence to the list. they’re all… ‘esoteric,’ if you will? ‘energetic?’ ‘dynamic’ perhaps, would be most accurate.

these first two are peas in a pod. dovetailed, if you will. i find myself applying both most often sociologically:

parsimony: ironically, this concept is subtlely complex. the most succinct definition i have found to date is this (merriam-webster): economy in the use of mean to an end. In the scientific method, this would be best said as economy in explanation, and encourages constraint in the amount of parameters or variables–due to this, it has come to be greatly valued by applied staticians. However, as is emphasized in the relevant wiki article, it “only has meaning in a very specific context of inquiry…The reasonableness of parsimony in one research context may have nothing to do with its reasonableness in another. It is a mistake to think that there is a single global principle that spans diverse subject matter.” Indeed, it is obvious upon a little thought that the most simple explanation is most definitely not always the true one, and there have been numerous cases in which it could be argued that parsimony being considered general law has slowed and even stifled scientific progress (e.g., logical positivism vs. atomic theory to name only one example of many). After all, life is complex. Nonetheless, Occam’s razor (“entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.”) has more often than not kept science grounded, as can be exemplified by the vast range of disciplines which have developed specified definitions of parsimony, e.g.: physics (special relativity, quantum mechanics), biogeography, statistics, mathematics, chemistry. Pardon a more intimate, albeit a little crude, slip into the personal: if there were any dimension in which i think there could be a truly applicable generality, it is human relational behaviour (read: he didn’t call b/c he’s just not that into you.)

serendipity: while considerably more straight forward, apparently serendipity is considered to be one of the top most difficult English words to translate. again, it is another one for which most definitions i found to be lacking (i.e.: “an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident,” dictionary.com). perhaps (not?) surprisingly, wiki provides the most clear and concise rendition: “the effect by which one accidentally discovers something fortunate, especially while looking for something else entirely.” again, this is most commonly valued among the scientific community, for whom serendipitous discoveries are prolific, significant, and entirely credible. it is interesting to note, however, that the value of unexpected or accidental things are easily missed when one is looking for something else, and so it is well established that a “prepared and open mind is required”  to detect or appreciate the value thereof. hence, it is often specialists and and/or interdisciplinary experts who discover serendipitous results of efforts. as already mentioned, i particularly love the reciprocal affirmation/tension between serendipity and parsimony. i find that when i accept the parsimonious social reality, i often realize a serendipitous benefit to the situation (to carry on the metaphor: the guy who isn’t really into you introduces you to a band that you love).

axiom: going with merriam-webster again on this one, since it covers all the bases with three definitions: 1) a maxim widely accepted on its intrinsic merit, 2) a statement accepted as true as the basis for argument or inference: postulate, 3) an established rule or principle or a self-evident truth. number 2 derives most directly from mathematics, which asserts that (other than tautologies, of which my comprehension is only minimal) “nothing can be deduced if nothing is assumed,” and therefore, the axiom is this basic assumption that is “accepted without demonstration.” This concept by definition requires a specific context or formula to which it is applied. However, over the last century or so, the perceived structuralist value of generalizing mathematical conceptualizations to the point of abstraction (leading to unlimited application) has increased, and at the most extreme, in field theory, an axiom can be considered more synonymous with constraint than postulate. The other two derive from traditional logic. The basic premises are that it should be “impossible to derive a contradiction from [an] axiom,” and “a set of axioms should also be non-redundant; an assertion that can be deduced from other axioms need not be regarded as an axiom.” And yet, the application of axiomatic dynamics as a logical system becomes so formulaic that logic functioning in this way could only be considered another branch of mathematics (see Euclidean geometry). Hence, it was the hope of modern logicians that a comprehensive collection (Cantor’s set) of axioms could be established as the basis for all mathematics. However, it was countered by Godel, who demonstrated that “that it is possible, for any sufficiently large set of axioms to construct a statement whose truth is independent of that set of axioms.” This can be more simply put as ‘the sum is greater than its parts.’ He also provided the corollary that the consistancy of an axiomatic set can never be ultimately proved. What attracts me the most to the history and application of this concept is the decisive role that intuition plays in the process of logic itself. Much of what i read on this topic discusses the ‘intuitive attraction’ between axioms and the tension that is created when our intuition is challenged by the limitations of logical formula. I like to explore this place where rationality meets its maker, if you will; the place where the known becomes un-. It is undeniable that everyone functions, if only subconsciously, under their own intuitive set of axioms, and on the rare occasion we are un/fortunate enough to have them challenged/disproven…the so-called foundation of our universe falls out from under us, and we’re left walking on air.

meme: Such a subtle, gorgeous word! Introduced in 1976 by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene, as an expression to discuss the equivalent principles in the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena to that in genetic evolution. Very simply put, they are “unit[s] of cultural transmission or imitation.” They are replicators. Some original examples are: melodies, catch-phrases, and beliefs (notably religious belief), clothing/fashion, and the technology of building. Memeticists, as they have come to be called, have not been able to dis/prove the existence or mechanism of discrete meme units empirically, and therefore, unlike its counterpart genetics, the memetic theory is not included in the general social scientific concensus.

Nevertheless, the premise remains undeniably intriguing. In summary, it is claimed that memes evolve, similar to biological evolution, through natural selection. That is, “they spread through the behaviours that they generate in their hosts. Memes that propogate less prolifically may become extinct, while others may survive, spread, and (for better or for worse) mutate….memes which replicate the most effectively spread best, and some memes may replicate effectively even when they prove detrimental to the welfare of their hosts.” This proposed mechanism implies culture to be an independent system of self-organization with an agenda for survival. I often struggle with this implication, and would posit that such a distinct term eludes direct definition becuase it simply functions as a convenient analogy for a dynamic and fluid process contained within our  own day to day behaviour in which our sense of self is entirely enmeshed.

One of my favourite exemplary models of how memes evolve through time/space continuum by the imitation of one human of another is that of fables and rumours. Both of these categories of units are propogated because of their potential usefulness for survival (e.g. wartime rumours can directly directly change life and death situations, and fables are often folk wisdom preserved verbally as ficitonalized advice). The difference between how the two are spread is vertical vs. horizontal. Fables are passed slowly down through time from generation to generation, usually not spreading very far from their point of origin through populations. On the other hand, rumours spread quickly out among many in the population of one generation, but are often forgotten and no longer spread once they have served their purpose of warning, as it were.  This clarifies the discrepancy: is “high-fidelity,” or quick, rote replication through space a memes’ ideal ‘goal?’ or is “low-fidelity:” slow and mutative imitation through time, more beneficial since survivial is key? or is it either/or? and since both kinds mutate beyond recognition (i.e. the telephone game), can they even be considered to be/have ever been a unit? But then again, can a gene? Whether or not all of this conjecture is ultimately just reductionist, the point that these theorists make is that we seemingly compusively do our part in both genetic and memetic propogation, whether they actually serve their purpose in aiding our well being or not, and that inquiry into this human reality can only help to learn more about the more puzzling aspects of culture (such as rascism).

In 1981, Lumsden and Wilson proposed that genes and culture co-evolve; each unit of biological culture corresponding to neuronal networks. Dawkins’ original three conditions for the evolution of memes were these: variation, or the introduction of new change to existing elements; heredity or replication, or the capacity to create copies of elements; differential “fitness”, or the opportunity for one element to be more or less suited to the environment than another. In 1996, Aaron Lynch provided 7 ‘general patterns of meme transmission’ which is comparably comprehensive and provides concise insight into how this phenomenal process is peceived by those who support it:

  1. Quantity of parenthood: an idea which influences the number of children one has. Children respond particularly receptively to the ideas of their parents, and thus ideas which directly or indirectly encourage a higher birthrate will replicate themselves at a higher rate than those that discourage higher birthrates.
  2. Efficiency of parenthood: an idea which increases the proportion of children who will adopt ideas of their parents. Cultural separatism exemplifies one practice in which one can expect a higher rate of meme-replication — because the meme for separation creates a barrier from exposure to competing ideas.
  3. Proselytic: ideas generally passed to others beyond one’s own children. Ideas that encourage the proselytism of a meme, as seen in many religious or political movements, can replicate memes horizontally through a given generation, spreading more rapidly than parent-to-child meme-transmissions do.
  4. Preservational: ideas which influence those that hold them to continue to hold them for a long time. Ideas which encourage longevity in their hosts, or leave their hosts particularly resistant to abandoning or replacing these ideas, enhance the preservability of memes and afford protection from the competition or proselytism of other memes.
  5. Adversative: ideas which influence those that hold them to attack or sabotage competing ideas and/or those that hold them. Adversative replication can give an advantage in meme transmission when the meme itself encourages aggression against other memes.
  6. Cognitive: ideas perceived as cogent by most in the population who encounter them. Cognitively transmitted memes depend heavily on a cluster of other ideas and cognitive traits already widely held in the population, and thus usually spread more passively than other forms of meme transmission. Memes spread in cognitive transmission do not count as self-replicating.
  7. Motivational: ideas that people adopt because they perceive some self-interest in adopting them. Strictly speaking, motivationally transmitted memes do not self-propagate, but this mode of transmission often occurs in association with memes self-replicated in the efficiency parental, proselytic and preservational modes.

my interest in cultural influence and pressure started during childhood, and i became aware of the fable/rumour model long before i ever heard the word meme. So while my method-obsessed side quivers at the thought of adhering to a proto or pseudo science, it does affirm a perception of the world i most likely adopted/inherited meme-style a la the alternative community i was born into. i have just recently begun diving into the wide variety of primary sources, and am most interested to hear input from anyone who has done the real reading and/or can provide a more compelling or credible argument for either side 🙂

Next is another hinged pair. These two comprise one of the philosophical mobius strips that have been keeping my brain continually boggled for the last few months…

neumenon: (pl. a) the most concise and encompassing definition I could find for this Kantian concept comes from a really cute little online dictionary called ninja words : (n) a thing as it is independently of any conceptualization or perception by the human mind; a thing-in-itself, postulated by practical reason but existing in a condition which is in principle unknowable and unexperienceable. This is considered in comparison to phenomenon, which is the thing as it is perceived by the observer. Thus the noumenal is entirely unpenetrable to humanity other than through practical (vs. speculative) reason. Kant posits that this practical reasoning (i.e. to act as a moral agent) “makes no sense unless a noumenal world is postulated in which freedom, God, and immortality abide” (Britannica). Since my jury is still indefinitely out on the whole ethical-morality issue, this continues to be one of my favourite pieces of experiential meat to chew. Also might be of some help if I read the primary source at some point 🙂

qualia: Let’s look at the flipside. In the broadest accepted sense, qualia can be defined as the introspectively accessible, phenomenal aspects of our mental lives (Stanford). In other words, they are the qualities that characterize experience; they are what make something ‘what it is like’. This is a concept best conveyed through example: the most simple being colour. The quale of red is its redness. Most famously, T. Nagle depicted this experiential dynamic with bat sonar. He argued that no matter how well versed you were in the biology and function of a bat’s sonar system, you can never know what it is like to percieve an object using it. The inherent subjectivity of qualia has created a substantial philosophical argument regarding as to whether or not they actually exist. Like our inability to even conceive of the noumenal quality of any given object, the qualia of either a thing or an experience (it is disputed as to what a quale belongs, if they do indeed exist) are intangible and ineffable; there is no objective method for which to analyse them, which drives the physicalists crazy ;).

And we’ll finish with a few fun ‘Bonus Words,’ lol:

incalcitrant: this has long been among those words i use intuitively without knowing precisely what i am saying or if it is exactly appropriate (while assuming that it is approximate). i only truly get my curiosity piqued in these cases if i find myself using such a term frequently b/c the continued uncertainty drives me to affirm my usage. And voila, what do i discover upon inquiry, but a great depiction of how this exact instinctual linguistic process occurs on a larger English cultural scale! Take a gander, b/c this fellow does is better than i could. Especially towards the end where i find his formal linguistic description to relate directly to the sort of “roll around my mouth” subconscious processing that occurs while i am speaking/writing. This dynamic is truly pointing @ some axiom (yay!) of contrived logic around the construction/inheritance of language and the lagacies therein. I will have to give it some considerable thought since this topic is still just a relatively opaque fog at the back of my head (which is how all the great ones start!)

polydundant: i originally knew this meaning under the term ‘etymologically redundant expressions,’ but came upon this much more satisfying and concise term on Erin Kean’s blog. Apparently she picked the term up at the Pop!Tech conference for new technology. Her definition is as follows: “a phrase that is redundant through the use of words from two or more languages that have the same meaning.” I would like to note that the redundancy comes from the multilingual marriage, and the majority of cases do not qualify as pleonasms (the use of more words or word-parts than are necessary for clear expression, wherein an idea clearly implied in one word is needlessly repeated in another: e.g. cold ice, or burning fire). my all time fave in english is sharia law (sharia means law in Arabic). Chai tea and naan bread are exactly the same, and are commonly used (tea tea and bread bread). Some newly discovered and amusing ones include head chef (apparently chef, and the english word chief, both derive from the french word for head, tete); and rice paddy (padi is malay for rice).

phatic: sociolinguistic term (Malinowski, 1923) for ‘small talk.’ Oxford puts it nicely: speech “used to convey general sociability, rather than to communicate any real meaning.” so discussion of the weather, greetings, the mention of events are generally all conversation for its own sake as a social skill, and therefore phatic. Wiki asserts that it is a bonding ritual, and also a strategy for managing interpersonal distance. It constitutes as a speech act. I picked up on this term in a book I am reading on literary theory by Terry Eagleton; he puts it quite elegantly: phatic communication has “a concern with the act of communication itself. In chatting to you about the weather I am also signalling that I regard conversation with you valuable [to some extent], that I consider you a worthwhile person to talk to, that I am not myself anti-social or about to embark on a detailed critique of your personal appearance.” ahahaha. funny ’cause it’s true. but most interestingly, he then adds: “In this sense, there is no possibility of a wholly disinterested [or objective] statement.” Every word we speak includes some level of value-judgement. Derived from the Greek phanai, which is ‘to speak,’ it seems to have been adopted by the theorists to serve this purpose of definition rather than having logically evolved (unlike emphasis/tic).

heart-angiogram-sd3453-swone of my psych profs, Dr. Susan Burggraf, has a premise that is related to the establishment of her model on how learning occurs in the brain that i adore. It is called The Academic Love Story. Essentially she posits that for many academics and professionals, the discovery of what discipline one wants to specialize in is biologically very similar to that of falling in love with a person, and that the relationship that develops can be related to a marriage in the way that maryHeartneurotransmittors are engaged.  i just can’t get enough of the sweetness and accuracy of this analogy. i for one know intimately the obsession of infatuation with every new installment of content in my degree. i am often left reveling, wandering in dazed amazement of joy at how my mind and heart has been stretched (serotonin? endorphin?); or find myself driven into the early hours ravenously attempting to absorb absolutely all that i can get my hands on regarding the intellectual object of my affection (dopamine? ephinephrine?), like a lover who would rather lose the sleep and pass the night worshipping the face of their heart_russellbeloved. …and having been blessed by both being raised by married parents, and being exposed to committed and passionate faculty who live and breathe their respective callings, i can only imagine that there must been interactions and parallels in the dynamics of growth, compromise, exploration, and comfort between the dedication of one person for another and that of a person for a range of ideas and efforts.                                [grammar=gorgeous.]


Erin McKean redefines the dictionary | Video on TED.com
.

Favourite quotes from the TED talk:

“artificial constraints lead to arbitrary distinctions and a skewed worldview.”

the “[online] dictionary is steampunk…victorian design with an engine on it.”

“some of my best friends are books.”

I officially got an instant crush on this lexicographer the second i heard her speak and have been relishing in her prolific blogging skills: it sorta feels like an unlimited giftcard in a handmade chocolate shop. She pretty much summarizes my politico-linguistic stance, and does so much more eloquently than I. It only makes sense that those who compile the official reference for english words would be most aware of how limited our compilation thereof truly is.

She’s got a little bit of something for everyone: I highly recommend a perusal of her stuff.

every word is born of millenia

every word is born of millenia

So I initially decided to start this blog b/c I have had numerous linguistic hypotheses bouncing around in my brain for a number of years now. The closest I’ve come to studying linguistics, even informally through used texts (as I have, for example, anthropology or mathematics) was with this gr. 6 latin exercise book circa the 1930s that I bought as a teen. Even more than my french immersion in elementary school, this book provided insights into the development of the English language of which I had been only vaguely aware. This most recent academic year I took courses which provided basic classical Greek and Arabic vocabulary; my longstanding curiosity about how and why what utterances are spoken, by whom and how they evolve was piqued once more, and I concluded that I truly did need a space within which I could expound further on the complexity of my burgeoning interest.