Friday, November 13, 2009

A Proper Renaming


  1. This is a good example of using new words to describe an existing thing. Of course this new definition makes no logical sense because anyone knows that donuts do not grow from seeds, but for some reason the name Donut Seed describes the shape and size and properties of a Cheerio better than any other name would. I think that one of the wonderful things about language is the everlasting possibility for making up new words that can do a better job of describing things than the old familiar ones can.

    Think about it! So words may have power over us, controlling and molding our perceptions, but at the same time, don't we have power over words? Can't we become aware of our own changing perceptions of the world around us and likewise modify our words to better describe concepts, characteristics, roles, and states of being that are constantly in flux? It is obviously pretty strange to be in the habit of making up words but sometimes the made up words are the best ones. Do you agree?

  2. This post seems to consider the notion of the neologism. I am currently in a DeLillo seminar in which our class has discussed, at considerable length, the validity of inventing new words to describe feelings, emotions or ideals that cannot be captured with existing words or phrases. DeLillo consistently makes use of his own brand of neologisms (e.g. "soul-moaning) that not only enrich his novels but ascribe to them a certain uniqueness.

    I would argue that creating words in and of itself can become arbitrary. I think there is a fine line between inventing effective turns of phrase and merely contriving. I believe that the flux in concepts that is pointed to in this post is most appropriate when recognizing the evolution of the human spirit and the human experience. One of the larger themes of DeLillo's work is detachment from "true reality," and the suppressed anxiety of the postmodern affect. In this way, the postmodern condition elicits new feelings and thus requires new ways to express these sentiments.

    Neologisms in this sense seem useful. However, I would disagree that surreal images need to be accompanied with a descriptor. Such images are meant to subvert or cause its viewers to consider the symbolism of that which is being conveyed (and nothing more).

  3. I agree, Alice, that language has a remarkable power and wonder to it in what it enables to create with meaning and convey. That is one reason why I love reading and writing so much, that this characteristic of language always constructs exciting new thoughts, emotions, etc to explore. Because of this personal regard I also find Saussure and other Structuralist's views of language dry and reductive; language becomes far more than its form in the wonder that we can create with it.
    You're correct also that there is a danger; with language having such a power that we've given it, who's really in control (Pharmakon-Pharmakon-Pharmakon is acutally echoing in my head)?

  4. I also understand what you're saying Deborah and I agree somewhat that there is not a category for these types of things. But I really wonder, why do we need a category for these things? Does everything really need to be classified??

    I agree with you also Kb, that this is what makes me love reading and writing and English in general. (So happy to have it as my major!haha)

  5. I think that inventing a third word to describe an object or a person that doesn't quite fit the mold is a plausible idea when applied to things that actually exist. Creating words to describe a creature that doesn't exist in nature (a lion with human hair, or a face of mouths) is irrelevant because one would never encounter a situation when the word would be necessary. Sometimes, we use stipulative definitions: a definition that assigns meaning to a word for the first time. Examples include: E-mail, download, software, Operation Desert Storm, etc. These are practical because they occur often in our interactions. The term "queer" is useful because it describes an entire *existing* group of people (arguably, all of us, according to Butler). I don't think that any one of these photos really embodies the need to create a new signifier--they simply display irony.

  6. Previously, you disappointed me. Now, just seconds later, you have all made me proud. Glad to see that you've started picking up on some of the tensions and consistencies between the theorists we've discussed for the past few months--that being a major goal of the course and all. However, I wonder if we need to consider genre here. Megan points us toward DeLillo's use of language as a novelist, whereas the rest of you seem to be thinking about language in more "practical" (to employ a vexed term) ways. Is there a difference? Does a neologism work differently--for better and/or for worse--when used for representational puproses as opposed to marketing purposes? Please, continue theorizing.