Monday, November 15, 2010

...Language is both amazing and terrifying...

The power of the written and spoken word is without equal. Words can build cities, destroy civilizations, craft beautiful pieces of art or be used to tear a person down one cell at a time. Words have as much power to create as they do to destroy. And that is fascinating.

I find myself constantly challenged by language. And no not in the "hurr durr I dunno wat to say" kind of way. I'm talking about things like regional dialects, slang, entire microcosms of linguistics that not only do I not understand, but that I don't even know exist right now. A word, in one region the country, can hold a far different meaning in other parts of the country. Perfect example, a Bostonian could tell you that something is "wicked pissah" and you'd probably have an idea what they're talking about. Bring that phrase even as far south as Virginia, and I can guarantee you they would have no fucking clue. (Bring it too far south where the crucifixes outnumber the college degrees and whoever or whatever you're referring to as "wicked" will likely be burned at the stake on grounds of witchcraft eg. Harry Potter, hispanics, any band that ISN'T Lynyrd Skynyrd and any beer that isn't Bud Light. That's right I went there).

But all horrible stereotypic misrepresentations of Southerners aside (I'm not racist, I have a friend who's southern!) language never ceases to amaze me. The number of words (that contextually mean something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT) will never cease to amaze and confuse me. Slang has left me befuddled, inappropriately offended, and has probably nearly gotten my ass kicked (on facebook...I'd never get my ass kicked in real life. Cuz you know...I'm all hardcore like that...and shit...).

All of this does beg the same question again and again however. Who decided that THAT word was actually going to mean any given thing? Who decided that the word "fuck" was going to offend, shock and upset people all over the English speaking world? Why those four letters? Why not "Blarg" or "Meep"? Who are you oh mysterious scholar? Possessor of such worldly knowledge that you may imbue phonemes with such great power?

Chances are, (at least in the case of "wicked pissah") it was some fuckhead named Bud who was drunk off his ass at a bar somewhere, referred to the urinal as a "wicked pissah" was misheard by his friends, and the phrase caught on, much like the way herpes, or that Numa Numa video, has a way of "catching on". (Yes the numa numa guy makes it burn when I pee). More likely than not, these individuals did not realize the impact their drunken shenanigans would have on the world at large. (That's another one....who the fuck thought up "shenanigans").

And that's what I learned today.

(Fun activity for my readers not bored to death: With some words, the more you say them, the less sense they make. Go on try it. Pick a word, and just repeat it in your head. Keep thinking of the sounds that comprise the word and the word itself will begin to lose meaning. Eventually you will all likely come to the same conclusion of "how the hell did that word ever come into existence. And if you're feeling REALLY excited about this stupid exercise, you can post what words make the least sense to you in the comments!)


Well if you're still reading this, you are either a masochist, or you really genuinely care about what I have to say, regardless of how depressing it is...and I'm not sure which is better :P But if you feel as though you have the will and fortitude to keep going, I won't stop you.

You still have time to turn back you's not too late... you sure? Well ok then...

What I've written above pokes fun at the strange and fascinating genesis of words we use colloquially as if they were second nature. And while the English language (retarded though it may be) never ceases to amaze and confuse me. The use of it at present never ceases to sadden and disturb me. Shakespeare created words and phrases that we use every single day without thought, yet who can we point to today that has had such a great influence on language? (No! No matter how many times I listen to that song, or how much I enjoy it, I will NEVER use the word Slizzard unironically). Gone are the days of meaningful songs and here is the reign of mindless, repetitive lyrical logorrhoea. And no matter what I do or say, nothing will change that. Oh well...Rah rah rah ah ah...Romma Romma ga ooh lala...want your bad romance...

(PPS I actually do like some poppy music, I just tend not to think about what I'm saying all that much :P)

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