Friday, February 03, 2006


I take issue with these people. And if you're not sure who these people are, they are the people who want to prove that language is inadequate for expression by mauling and manipulating it. Or prove that language mauls and manipulates us by being inadequate. Who knows. They don't.

This began on Monday. We were looking at "Tender Buttons" in the infamous 617 class--which I usually love, but on this day, I was just annoyed. "Tender Buttons" is a text by Gertrude Stein in which she privileged sound over meaning in order to create a new type of language-oriented experience. This apparently allows the reader/hearer to experience the language more purely. I didn't enjoy it. The class (meaning the prof and one student who just makes me. . . ) were excitedly pointing out how Stein is removing sytactical hierarchies. But she's not. And I sat there looking at periods, commas, headings, paragraph breaks. They all establish a hierarchy. Which is why I like them. (editorgirl is taking over the poet in me and strangling her.)

The conversation continued on Wednesday with a walk through the breakdown between writing and language that finally collapses under the watchful eye of Derrida. Go Jacques. But under that collapse comes the clean-up crew to reconstruct what has been so carefully deconstructed. I did learn two new words: hypotactic and paratactic. Hypotactic is the hierarchal state; paratactic is a state of equality, which is the goal of the L*A*N*G*U*A*G*E poets.

And then the bomb. Our first creative assignment for that class is to attempt to create a paratactic presentation of language. I ranted. I raved. I frothed at the mouth.

And then I chatted with TO. He used a word I didn't know (strafe), but liked the sound of. And that response to the word was just as valid as my liking the definition of my favorite words. So I have now begun to collect words for this little project of mine. My favorites are pivotal, soulstress, kiss, thumb, tractor, elongate, mercy, beat, accession, ascension, foster, and quadragesimal. If you have a favorite word, please contribute.


Lady Jane said...

Can I be honest too? The whole Nietzche (spelling his name is always an adventure in trying to think of any other letters that I could put in and still retain the sound of it) idea that language isn't adequate bugs me. Yes, he's probably right, and language is removed from reality, and when I say red apple the idea that comes to your head and my head aren't the real apple and probably aren't the same idea. Sure. Fine. I still don't like it. Anyhow, favorite words? Superfluous. Facetious. Cymraeg. Llyfrgell. Specious. A lot of ous-es.

Edgy said...

I've become a fan of lichenlike ever since Chicago changed their standard and indicated that -like is a closed suffix if the noun it is attached to has fewer than three syllables. I'm just yearning for an author to use it.

And I want to second lady jane's facetious.

Petra said...

"strafe" has an awesome etymology, too, which I happen to know off the top of my head. (Yes, I'm a dork, no comments please.) It comes from the German phrase "Gott strafe England," meaning "God punish England," a common WWI era greeting. British soldiers then picked it up in the generic "to punish, damage" sense, and it only later acquired the narrower meaning of "to attack the ground with machine guns from low-flying aircraft."

Rad, huh?

Oh, right, favorite word: anathema.

Anonymous said...

currently? paratactic.

bawb said...

Little surprise you learned "strafe" from an FPS'er. I guess the logical thread between Petra's and TO's definitions is kind of cool, though.

InDialect said...

Meld. Liminal. Scone. Gingerbread. Mmmm. Getting hungry.


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