Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The VRP is Either Being Hijacked by Spammers...Or Has Transcended Language Entirely

A plethora of spam comments from Asian sites is provoking me to break my long silence and write this short diatribe.

Comment moderation is now on, and when I get a chance I'll go delete the dozens of comments that look like NBA tatts reiterated endlessly, except that I suspect these cryptic characters are touting Chinese Viagra or something instead of, say, "strength and honor," or whatever LeBron James' tattoo actually means.

I'm kind of amused at this development, actually. Wondering what these spammers think this site is about and what exactly they are trying to promote. Does the VRP look like a rollicking entertainment zone with rich patrons who are looking to drop their dime on exotic pleasures?

Hmm. I wouldn't have thought so...but maybe the VRP has tapped into an even deeper cultural vein that what I've realized. Maybe this "vocabulary" site, while championing English verbs, adjectives, and the like, has managed to transcend the very reason for its existence, putting the love for language into a medium beyond words.

Yeah, I think that's probably what has happened here.

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Words that Roll Trippingly Off the Tongue

From AllEyesOnJenny comes this unabashed word-love:

Once I did a list of the grossest words to say, now I’m countering that with fun words to say:

Trabajabamos** (Yeah I know it’s Spanish, but it still applies.)
Guacamole … closely followed by …

Lindsay and I discussed this carefully, and we would add:
  1. Perspicacious
  2. Discombobulate
  3. Zinfandel
  4. Whimsy
  5. Scuttlebutt
  6. Smack
Aidan contributed:
  1. Marshmanannow (similar to a "Marshmallow," but with more complex flavors)
  2. Vanderhorst
Asher added:
  1. Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
He's such a Spoon fan. However, we voted to take exception to "Trabajabamos." Very questionable... True, it is a lot of fun to say, but it has no English usage, and the Wikipedia entry is absolutely no help. Out!! ;)

What words would you add?

HT: 22 Words
X-posted on BitterSweetLife.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I Call it Power Vocab

Our 1.8-year-old Aidan doesn't like chicken, but he does like food. So tonight, when the boys were home alone, we had "yummy food" for dinner. And chicken. At the same time.

Yet more proof of what preachers, politicians, and we at the VRP already know.

[Note: I'd like to post here more often, but with a couple small kids and being in school...you know. I'll do what I can, but if anyone would like to volunteer as a contributor, let me know.]

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

You Don't Understand Because You Haven't Tried Hard Enough

I interrupt regularly scheduled non-programming to bring you this vocab issue from one of the the circles I typically frequent: The question of insider jargon.

Sometimes, practitioners (the "purists") will argue that if you want to understand a field of study or academic discipline, the onus is on you to learn the involved, technical language so you can understand the conversation. Sounds good in theory, but is rarely realistic for anyone who is not a librarian or is not enrolled in grad school.

Then there are the "popularizers" (Briane Greene, John Horgan, C.S. Lewis) who are often frowned upon by their very learned colleagues. Their sin? Taking the precious codified knowledge of their professions (Physics, Science, Theology, respectively) and dumming it down so average people can understand it!

And now, an illustrative example of "pure" jargon from the field of contemporary theology, or "emerging church."
"Doesn't all of this suggest that Paul's rhetoric reflects an inherently totalizing regime of truth designed to wipe out alterity, delegitimate difference and allow only for the univocal discourse of orthodoxy?

...unmask the power grab ... deconstruct the normativity of the author's voice and give back legitimate voice to that which has been silenced and marginalized.

What such 'reading against the grain' of the text actually accomplishes is a new kind of violence with a new opponent who is deemed to have deviated from another assumed normative stance..." - taken from Colossians Remixed, reviewed here

What does one make of this? I study theology. In school. And it would still take me considerable downtime plus a dictionary to glean anything helpful from this writing. Given the density of much expert verbiage, who does one turn to? At what point does specific, technical language become overreaching and begin to obscure meaning instead of revealing? Should popularizers be hated, tolerated, or applauded?

I'm leaning toward the last.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

"Re-purposing" Back-to-School

Laundry detergent bottles, "repurposed" by Julian Lwin. Via Cool Hunting.

We're moved into the new apartment enough so that we have internet access but not enough that we can, say, get dressed over here. We have our priorities, after all. So, this brief status report.

But here is an attempt at some substance:

Also keeping me from posting lately are the meetings faculty have been attending as preparation for the fall semester. At one of those meetings, we heard a representative from the education branch of the Herman Miller company talk about spatial arrangements in educational environments and how those arrangements can actually give shape to the learning dynamic that takes place between/among students and teachers. The timing of the presentation was unfortunate for all concerned: it was the last one before our lunch, and we already were running late; and, given that the buildings we'd be applying these considerations to have yet to be built (we're in the midst of a fundraising campaign for the college)--or, in some cases, even designed--it all seemed a bit intangible to those in the room (approximately all of us) worried about next week. Finally, let's just say it was pretty easy to infer from the nifty writing pads and pens given to us that if the Herman Miller company didn't already have a contract with the college, it wanted to have it.

At any rate, it was during that presentation that the representative used the word "re-purposing" to describe the process of transforming a space. The word was new to me and my colleagues; as I wrote it down, I observed one of my colleagues writing down the exact same word. But my Google search for images for this post this morning implied to me that, as usual, I'm out of the trendy-neologisms loop.

Anyway. The point, you're asking. Here it is, for what it's worth: That the word, like many neologisms when you first hear them, sounds invented "just because" and not because they describe some something that heretofore had gone unsignified. Whatever work they do is a sort of shorthand, a quicker way of saying something that we've always been able to say, a sort of microwavable language (which I've mused about indirectly before). My colleague and I giggled at its artificiality when we first heard it: "She talks funny," is what we were thinking. But this morning, as I found myself thinking about my desire to rearrange my classroom from its eminently practical, Gradgrind rows into an inverted "U" and to revamp some writing assignments in order, I hope, to lead my students' writing into more unfamiliar intellectual realms, I realized that, yes, I too was "re-purposing." It sounded weird, maybe even too lofty, to use such a value-laden word as "purpose" when describing what is in its essence remodeling. When applied to Education, though, it speaks directly to what, I would hope, changing things around should address. Something more than just freshening things up a bit.

(Cross-posted at Blog Meridian)

Friday, December 15, 2006

At What Price, Vocab?

A Lesson in Lexical Conviction
from Madeleine L'Engle

Walking on Water, Madeleine L'EngleComing off a knock-down, drag-out battle with my final exams, I picked up Walking On Water, Reflections on Faith & Art by Madeleine L'Engle. It's a kind of therapy. This is from page 36:
We think because we have words, not the other way around. The more words we have, the better able we are to think conceptually. Yet another reason why [A Wrinkle in Time] was so often rejected is that there are many words in it which would never be found on a controlled vocabulary list for the age-group of the ten-to-fourteen-year-old. Tesseract, for instance. It's a real word, and one essential for the story.

A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'EngleOf course, the saga turned out well for L'Engle, who saw Wrinkle not only get published, but go on to become a Newbery Medal winner and win an enduring place in American children's (and adult) literature. But going in, she couldn't have known that success waited on the far side of a non-compromise. This is what you call strength of lexical conviction.

Would any of you adopt this strategy if you had multiple publishing houses pleading with you to make your writing "communicate better to a wider audience?" The latter half of that sentence doesn't apply to me at this point in my career, but this is something I'm turning over. The question should also be viewed with the help of G.K. Chesterton's counter-perspective:
Long words go rattling by us like long railway trains. We know they are carrying thousands who are too tired or too indolent to walk and think for themselves. It is a good exercise to try for once in a way to express any opinion one holds in words of one syllable… The long words are not the hard words, it is the short words that are hard. There is much more metaphysical subtlety in the word “damn” than in the word “degeneration.

So then, put yourself in the shoes of an aspiring author. Then ask, Is "tesseract" worth it? I await your opinions.

Cross-posted on BitterSweetLife.

The VRP is an SOB

And That's Good News

Liz at Successful Blog, recently recognized as one of the Top Ten Blogs for Writers, has made it official: The Vocabulary Reclamation Project is an SOB, and all who are associated with it share in the infamy. Care to elaborate, Liz?
The SOB for Successful and Outstanding Blogger was my own– a bit of mischief to underscore our sense of irreverence and openness in discussions. It’s become quite a symbol of what the blog stands for. Every now and then a fun post goes up titled “Liz called me an SOB,” those are my favorite.
Consider the post title a hat tip, Liz. I couldn't pass up the complimentary acronyms. Thanks for the nod, and keep up the good work.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Reclaiming "Joy"

At Successful Blog, Liz has a convincingly-illustrated post up about nothing other than vocabulary reclamation (more or less).

Joy might be the word I miss the most. At one time joy filled a heart. I think about joy. I wish for joy, and I wish joy for my friends, and yet when I write the word, it seems shallow, not conveying how deeply I wish for them. Joy is exponentially greater than the happiness we all seek, but the word has been made flat like old soda. Now it calls up thoughts of Seasons Greetings and green box bottoms with clear covers in drug stores every November. It’s laced with cranky people standing in lines at cash registers. How can I wish true joy when it conjures up images of chaos and too much to do?

Well worth a read.