Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Alchemy of the Word Part 2

Part 2: Wordsmith

By Aubrey Zich

"I invented colors for the vowels! - A black, E white, I red, O blue, U green. - I made rules for the form and movement of every consonant, and I boasted of inventing, with rhythms from within me, a kind of poetry that all the senses, sooner or later, would recognize. And I alone would be its translator."
-Arthur Rimbaud ("Season in Hell" Delirium II: Alchemy of the Word)

In order to make the unknowable tangible, significance must be assigned. As Kant said, "Ding an sich"; thing-in-itself. We name what we do not know in order to master its properties. Since language is malleable, one can create new words to describe a technological shift and these words enter into our lexicon. One can see examples of this in verbs such as "tweeting" or "Xeroxing" and proper nouns that are actually brands like "Band-Aids" and "Kleenex." It is the hope of every marketing team that the trademark name of the product surpasses the definition ensuring its superiority about all others. "Scotch Tape" conjures a very specific image of type of tape, where the word "tape" itself can make one think of anything from cassette to adhesive. If one was to say, "I brought the tape," the listener must have a previous known context in order to understand which type of tape the speaker has with him or her.

But what if you can get to world to co-opt your own language? What influence would you have as the creator? The company Apple has essentially branded language in their own way with the popularization of the letter "i" before products such as the "iPod" or "iMac." Aurorally, it puts emphasis on the individual and the product. However, visually the product has more weight than the individual by capitol letter emphasis. As an alphabetic sigil, it serves to establish who is in control. There are very few people who have said the word "iPhone" and have not seen it written in Apple's shiny font face. This "i" trend has become so popular that other companies have been co-opting the "i" for their own products unrelated to Apple, ensuring Apple's linguistic endurance as well as the individual as a secondary consideration to the product.

It is also possible to re-invigorate old language and repurpose it. Snoop Dogg brought the use of izz-speak from the 1970s jive back into popular lexicon (coincidentally, few years after asking the question "What's my name?") and made it his own.

If you create a word, you control it. It is your word. You can alter and change the meaning as you see fit. You alone are the translator, dictating its pronunciation. You create the sigil the represents it. The intention behind the word is yours alone and therein lies your jurisdiction. The creation of words and "smithing" of language is a powerful tool and it's applications range from building community to outright mind control.

More of this in Part III: Loading Language

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