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ad nauseam


An essay of mine is over at Full Stop. Enjoy.

What Plato did not foresee, quite, was the degree to which the written word might become as anonymous as an assassin; how it might establish a vast industry; how words would appear along roadways and on walls and the sides of buildings, not written, but posted, and addressed to whoever chanced to be passing. Words are stuck on bumpers, stenciled across chests so they can bounce with the breasts. He could not have imagined the multiplication of the written word, the printed word, the printout word, the painted word, the filmed and photographed word, the day-glow, lit-up word, the sky-written word, the repealed, and stricken, and cancelled, and censored and snipped-up, crossworded word, either, and its consequent devaluation, or the total trivialization of speech and conversation in addition.                                           -William Gass, “The Habitations of the Word”

I saw a man the other day playing “Words With Friends ” (which always to my mind recalls “friends with benefits”, with the exact brand of cheap-transaction-behind-euphemistic-facade involved) by simply inserting combinations of two or three of his letters and waiting for the program to tell him if it worked as an actual word. There are multiple websites dedicated to facilitate cheating at this game, feeding you words to help you beat your friend (again, the imagery). Even those not willing to cheat spend their time playing the game via a host of ridiculous two-letter words and the corresponding focus on placement over word choice. I know this is fun for some people (I don’t know why) but I’d still like to rashly conclude that our language has become more of a game in which we score points than a means by which we succinctly communicate. This can be seen saliently in our current political arena, but also in our culture at large. “Za” is not a word.

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