Words About Words


“Language is the source of misunderstandings.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


Words about Words


“From colonial times Americans have cobbled a vernacular language that…multiplies the world through a kaleidoscope of meaning. It belongs to the underworld, the streets, the back room, the geeky realms of the digital frontier, where englihtenment requires its own lingo. Walt Whitman celebrated slang as ‘the lawless germinal element…behind all poetry,’ and sought to celebrate, in contrast to the formal language of England, the ‘real genius underneath our speech, which is not what the school men suppose, but wild, intractable, suggestive.'”

-John Leland, Hip: The History

Getting started

Now that we’ve got some background information out of the way, I want to get the ball rolling with The Catchphrase and start looking at where the expressions and phrases we use come from, and how they make their way into common usage.

Community: Pierce coins a new phrase.

This blog is still new, so it’s difficult to say what exactly it will become, or what sort of format will be most suitable, but my hope is that it will combine longer posts about the background of different trends and technologies that affect language, supplemented with brief, “lighter” posts showcasing specific examples of how pop culture and media — from literature to broadcast news, sitcoms, game shows, movies, comics, social media, and viral videos — get into our collective consciousness and change the way we communicate.

Mean Girls: “Stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen!”

Because I am ultimately influenced by my own life experience, the content (at least to start) will reflect the media that has been significant for me, and hopefully for my peers. That means that a lot of the references will be related to things that have come around since the late ’80s, or that I have been exposed to through my own experience.

So, I apologize if I reference something that makes no sense to you; after all, we all experience the world from our own perspective, and the things that have made their way into my vernacular might not be a part of yours and vice versa. But, I’d love to get suggestions as things get going about references that have slipped my mind or that I may not be immediately familiar with.

It’ll be streets ahead!