robertogreco + wordplay   14

That Way We’re All Writing Now — The Message — Medium
"[When you(r)…
That moment when…]

This style has been huge for some time now. Do you love it, or hate it?

Me—I’m in! Mind you, I’m a fan of all the betentacled linguistic lifeforms that have emerged from our cambrian explosion online. These days, people write insanely more text than they did before the Internet and mobile phones came along. So the volume of experimentation is correspondingly massive and, for me, delightful. One joy of our age is watching wordplay evolve at the pace of E.coli.

But this trend: What’s going on with it? How does it work? Why do people employ it so frequently?

It turns out there are four big reasons why.

To suss this out, I called up some linguists: Gretchen McCulloch, a who specializes in analyzing netspeak (her Toast essay explaining “the grammar of Doge” is a gorgeous example), and Ben Zimmer, a linguist with Vocabulary.com who writes for the Wall Street Journal. As they pointed out, this style of wordplay initially appeared—like most online memes — on image-boards, Tumblr and Youtube. An early version was the meme “that feel when”; variants morphed into the standalone phrase “that awkward moment when”, which by last year was common enough to appear as a movie title.

But it’s more than just movie titles. This stylistic gambit— “that moment when …”, “the thing where …”, “when you realize …” — is omnipresent now. And that’s because it achieves a few conversational goals:

1) It creates a little puzzle. …

2) It makes your feeling seem universal. …

3) It’s short. …

4) It’s a glimpse of the next big way the Internet is changing language. …

For the first fifteen years of the mainstream Internet, the main way language changed was at the level of the individual word. We invented a lot of ‘textisms’ — short forms like ‘ur’ for “you’re”, LOL-style acronyms, or alphanumeric l33tspe@k. And of course, a lot of words got invented, like “selfie”.

What’s happening now is different. Now we’re messing around with syntax — the structure of sentences, the order in which the various parts go and how they relate to one another. This stuff people are doing with the subordinate clause, it’s pretty sophisticated, and oddly deep. We’re not just inventing catchy new words. We’re mucking around with what makes a sentence a sentence.

“Playing with syntax seems to be the broad meta trend behind a whole bunch of stuff that’s going on these days,” McCulloch tells me. And it goes beyond this subordinate-clause trend. Many of the biggest recent language memes were about syntax experimentation, such as the “i’ve lost the ability to can” gambit, or the gnarly elocution of doge, or the “because” meme. (Indeed, Zimmer points out, the American Dialect Society proclaimed “Because” the Word of the Year for 2013, largely because it had been revitalized by this syntax play.)

Why would we be suddenly messing around with syntax? It’s not clear. McCulloch thinks it may be related to a larger trend she’s identified, which she calls “stylized verbal incoherence mirroring emotional incoherence”. Most of these syntax-morphing memes consist of us trying to find clever new ways to express our feelings.

“You want to convey that you’re kind of overwhelmed by your emotions,” she says. “But you don’t want people to think that you’re completely naive about it. So you’re maintaining a certain level of sophistication. You need to stylize your incoherence, so that it’s part of a broader thing people are doing. You don’t just kind of keysmash all over the place. You also want to be witty while you’re doing it.

“You get more attention online if you’re witty, and people actually engage with you if you’re witty about your feelings.”

On the other hand, if you really don’t like this trend, there is—as it happens —an image-meme for your feelings, too. Better yet, it’s a complete sentence!"
clivethompson  2015  language  internet  memes  syntax  linguistics  writing  howwewrite  gretchenmcculloch  doge  grammar  text  texting  play  communication  brevity  universality  belonging  humor  emotions  benzimmer  wordplay  words  sentences  that 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Tupperwolf - Lichen names
"Yesterday I happened across that Eames promotion for the SX-70 for the first time. It reminded me, among many things, of an old friend, now dead – Bob Rodieck.

My high school was my mother (a qualified teacher), our neighbor R., and me. One of the classes was to make a book on our island’s natural history. When we were planning it, we visited Bob on an extremely gray spring day to talk about desktop publishing, because he’d been talking about how he was writing a book himself. (I may have the timeline slightly wrong here. Please consider this an As I Remember It story.)

We explained what we wanted to do. Bob, who was a freshly emeritus professor, scratched his stubble and leaned forward, then leaned back. He asked if we knew the difference between vector and raster graphics. I started explaining how they’re actually fairly isomorphic, since pixels can be represented as squares and, conversely, control points are in a discrete space, and from then on we were friends. It was Bob who turned me on to Tufte, and I turned him on to Bringhurst.



The natural history book was a well chosen project. We interviewed a lot of the oldest and most eccentric people on the island. They had records, written or in memory, about when flowers used to bloom, where the clams used to live before they were depleted, how many eagles used to nest on the point, how the old Samish woman had treated leather, when the last puffin was seen, what time of year the beaver showed up, and so on. There was the mystery of the flying squirrel.

We got a lot of very guarded mushroom knowledge from Dorothy H., who was in her eighties and roughly three times as vigorous and alert as I was. It’s really hard to come by good mushroom knowledge, because the people careful enough to understand mushrooms tend to be careful about risking other people on possibly poisonous food. Dorothy played her cards close to her chest.



Bob eventually finished his book, which was called The First Steps in Seeing. It was very well received, but as far as I can tell never sold well – Amazon has only four reviews, though they’re all five-star. I think it’s because he wasn’t around to promote it. He’d told me this wonderful story about graphic design and experimental design once: He went to get a check-up. He was given a form to fill out that included dietary habits. He said that he was about to check “1 serving of green vegetables/day” when he noticed that the checkbox itself was red! He figured that, being of northern European stock, he was adapted to fewer greens, and checked the first box that wasn’t red, 3 servings, and called it good. Not long after finishing the book, he was diagnosed with gut cancer.

Towards the end, he was on the island resting when he started having an unusual type of trouble moving his eyes. He said it was clearly a certain potassium channel failing, and it was time to go back to Seattle and die.

I think that, had he been around to promote it and put out a second edition, his book would be a classic now. It’s in the details and how they’re subordinated to the big-picture view. He drew all the illustrations himself. He chose the spot colors. He thought very hard about what path through the material he could provide that would be easiest for the beginner but pass the best trailheads for those who went further. He threw a lot of textbook conventions out the window and never missed them. He gave a crap but didn’t give a fuck.

Dorothy’s reluctance to tell us which mushrooms we could eat drove us to the classic texts, David Arora’s books. We could use him as a lever on her – “Arora says …; is that really true?”. In other fields we found other guidebooks: Pojar & MacKinnon on plants, Love’s Probably More Than You Want to Know About the Fishes of the Pacific Coast.

If you don’t spend a lot of time with natural history guidebooks, you might not know that the best ones have voice – authorial voice. It’s necessary, I think, to make a book that’s basically a huge list of details interesting enough to pay attention to. And I suspect you’re unlikely to excell in mycology, botany, or marine biology unless you have a sense of perspective. If you are humorless, it’s a lot easier to be a businessperson than to spend three weeks in a tent, looking at little tufts of fungus–alga symbionts.

It’s the big picture and the little picture. It’s Philip Morrison’s speech at the end of that Polaroid film. It’s the SX-70 letting you be more inside experience, less concerned with problems of representation, in something more than a tree or a net. It’s an idea of technology that seems a little dangerous and very good to me. It reminds me of Twitter a little. Lately there I appreciated a map of surf conditions from Bob’s son, and reconnected with my fellow student R.’s cousin."
charlieloyd  highschool  projects  projectbasedlearning  pbl  naturalhistory  lichen  names  naming  2013  memory  learning  education  books  writing  teaching  sx-70  philipmorrison  polaroid  mushrooms  bobrodieck  unschooling  deschooling  sight  seeing  memories  imaging  photography  publishing  promotion  fun  play  words  wordplay  design  davidarora  trevorgoward  brucemccune  delmeidinger  science  interestedness  interestingness  interested 
march 2013 by robertogreco
Signifyin' - Wikipedia
"Signifyin(g) (vernacular) is a practice in African-American culture, involving a verbal strategy of indirection that exploits the gap between the denotative and figurative meanings of words.

According to Black literary scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., the practice derived from the Trickster archetype found in much African mythology, folklore, and religion: a god, goddess, spirit, man, woman, or anthropomorphic animal who plays tricks or otherwise disobeys normal rules and societal norms. In practice, signifyin' often takes the form of quoting from subcultural vernacular, while extending the meaning at the same time through a rhetorical figure.

The expression itself derives from the numerous tales about the Signifying Monkey, a folk trickster figure said to have originated during slavery in the United States. In most of these narratives, the Monkey manages to dupe the powerful Lion by signifying. Signifyin(g) directs attention to the connotative, context-bound significance of words…"
subculturalvernacular  folklore  mythology  signifyingmonkey  via:charlieloyd  indirection  wordplay  words  africanamerican  language  trickster  henrylouisgates  signifyin'  from delicious
november 2012 by robertogreco
Constant spoonerizing - Neven Mrgan's tumbl
"I spoonerize words all the time. All. The. Time. Good spoonerisms and bad. In my head. (I worderize spoons all the time. Tall. The Lime. Spoon Gooderisms band ad. Hin my ed.)…

I’ve only ever told a few people about it openly - not because it’s a big secret, but because it’s so… goofy and inconsequential. I know others have similar uncontrollable wordplay obsessions: constant punning, rhyming, anagrams, inverting words. Another minor thing I do is count the letters in a word and sort the consonants from the vowels, possibly as a pre-processing step for spoonerization.

This is a contagious brain-bug. Start doing it around someone and watch them pick it up. (I’m so sorry, Cabel. Oh also, dart stewing it surround omeone and pock whem ditch it up.)"
fun  words  language  classideas  tcsnmy  toshare  cv  play  wordplay  spoonerisms  nevenmrgan  from delicious
december 2011 by robertogreco
Eastern Seaboard, West Coast (full episode) | A Way with Words
"Does sanction mean “a penalty” or “an approval”? Well, both. Martha explains the nature of contranyms, also known as Janus words. Here’s an article about them in the periodical Verbatim.

Listeners share their suggestions for the game What Would You Serve? Hosting a golfer for dinner? Tea and greens should be lovely!

William Faulkner used adjectives like shadowdabbled, Augusttremulous, and others that can only be described as, well, Faulknerian. Grant and Martha trade theories about why the great writer chose them.

The University of Virginia has an online audio archive of Faulkner, recorded during his tenure as that school’s Writer-in-Residence.

Also, check out this splendid 1956 Paris Review interview with Faulkner about the art of writing."
writing  words  wordgames  games  play  waywithwords  contranyms  classideas  language  English  wordplay  williamfaulkner  from delicious
february 2011 by robertogreco
Portmanteau - Wikipedia [bookmark points to the Japanese section, but also see the "Portmanteau word/morph (linguistics)" section]
"There are many examples of borrowed word blends in Japanese. The word パソコン (pasokon?), meaning PC, as in personal computer, is not officially an English loan word. The word does not exist in English; however, it is a uniquely Japanese contraction of the English personal computer (パーソナル・コンピュータ, pāsonaru konpyūta?). Another example, Pokémon (ポケモン?), is a contracted form of the English words pocket (ポケット, poketto?) and monsters (モンスター, monsutā?).

Sometimes Japanese and English words are blended together. One very famous example, karaoke (カラオケ, karaoke?), is the blend of the Japanese word for empty (空っぽ, karappo?) and the English word orchestra (オーケストラ, ōkesutora?)."
japanese  words  language  portmanteau  classideas  wordplay  japan  pokemon  karaoke  linguistics  pokémon  from delicious
november 2010 by robertogreco
: : McNeill Designs for Brighter Minds : : You've Been Sentenced!
"Using a unique word deck of pentagon shaped cards containing conjugations of funny words, famous names from throughout history, familiar places, and wild cards, players have to make grammatically correct and justifiable sentences."
games  play  language  english  words  wordplay  writing 
april 2008 by robertogreco
Fun little article by Grant Barrett about people saying words wrong on purpose (kottke.org)
"I use several of these mispronunciations regularly...Nucular, saxamaphone, muscles with Popeye's hard c, computor, robit for robot, etc. Those of you who speak other languages...is this a common behavior outside of English?" + comments
english  language  linguistics  wordplay  slang  pronunciation  kottke  fun  spelling 
april 2008 by robertogreco
Social Times SXSW - General Theory of Creative Relativity - Brightcove
"Jim Coudal on the General Theory of Creative Relativity" - "Coudal is like a Montessori preschool" "6, 7, 8 people is a really nice non-political size"
coudal  creativity  cv  sxsw  theory  art  design  wordplay  fun  work  generalists  constraints  creative  literature  writing  howwework  thinking  process 
march 2008 by robertogreco
Human Brain Cloud: Play
"a massively multiplayer word association "game" or experiment ... or something. The idea is that given a word, a player types in the first thing that comes to mind and the results are combined into a giant network."
collectiveintelligence  crowdsourcing  words  game  play  gaming  language  english  games  data  collaboration  collective  meaning  brainstorming  semantics  semiotics  semanticweb  languages  linguistics  hivemind  multiplayer  wordplay  visualization  thesaurus  mmog  mindmapping  mindmap  dictionary  folksonomy  dictionaries 
november 2007 by robertogreco
TamTam - Palabras que se muerden la cola
"Si la última letra de una palabra es su cola, en una palabra que se muerde la cola la primera letra es igual a la última. La lista empezaría así"
words  language  spanish  español  wordplay 
september 2007 by robertogreco

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