Friday, May 29, 2009

WORD UP


Just when I seem to master some new slang, the kids go and change it. Are “word” and “word up” still cool? Is “cool” still cool? Oh well, that’s the nature of language. Slang must constantly be renewed to fulfill its purpose. And misusages, if enough people adopt them permanently, eventually get approved by the panels of sage lexicographers, and added to all the dictionaries we use everyday. It doesn’t happen overnight, mind you. “Ginormous” can be traced back to 1948, but it just got the green light to be in the dictionary in 2007! On the opposite end of the spectrum, some words seems to hang around long after their time is up, and others simply get boxed up and packed away, largely forgotten. I think an example of the latter would be a word I discovered yesterday on Poetikat's blog.

Kat posted a poem written in the form called a “villanelle.” I wasn’t familiar with that term, so I headed over to Wikipedia to check it out. It turns out a villanelle is not a poem about miniature evil mustachioed men in black, but rather, it’s a poetic form that dates back to at least the Renaissance, and is known for its very strict rules of composition. Perhaps the most famous is Dylan Thomas’ Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night. Then, in an interesting lexicological synchronicity, the word that showed up in my inbox from the Merriam-Webster Word-a-the-Day people was “eclogue.” That turns out not to be a typo in a guidebook to green vacations, but is actually another kind of poetry, namely one “in which shepherds converse.” Whoo-kay. Actually, an eclogue is an even older type of poetry—dating back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. I think a poet could have a lot of fun writing a modern version of an eclogue these days. Think of all those old cattle-versus-sheep-ranching movies we saw as kids. And they’re still making them (The Outsider, 2002, with Naomi Watts, Tim Daly and a couple of Carradines), so why not bring “eclogue” down from the attic and dust it off, too?



On a somewhat related note, I have to say a word about type fonts. I think we may have gone too far when we invented fonts without serifs. For example, a while ago on the local radio station, the young lady reading the news referred to North Korea’s Dear Leader Kim Jong-Il as Kim Jong the Second. Her copy was undoubtedly written in a font without serifs. Of course, if you’re that uninformed to begin with, maybe a set of serifs isn’t really going to help much.


Sheep photo from Wikimedia Commons
Font photo from www.walyou.com

12 comments:

Sylvia K said...

Always learn something interesting and fascinating from your posts, Deborah! Thanks, you keep my brain working! Hope you have a lovely weekend!

Dewdrop said...

Hi there! How have you been? I've missed you.

I had no idea ginormous was added. I thought I was making it up.

Shellmo said...

I know I am way behind I'm my slang. Ginormous will now be added to my vocabulary.

Aleta said...

I enjoy writing poetry, but that's a form I can't tackle. Something about it makes my muse go into hyperdrive and then blanks out. Lol.

fourwindsphotojournal said...

I didn't even know 'word up', so how far behind am I?
This is a guess, but I'll bet you read a lot. I always come away from here with something.

My links have fallen off both my four winds blogs. I was worried that I deleted them, it seems they just do want to show up today.

On smog, my husband's family lived in northwestern Maine when we were first married. Their house was on a lake, like yours, only a smaller one. You are right --what stunning sunsets there used to be before the EPA.

SandyCarlson said...

I love word and word up. It's a contemporary urban acknowledgment of the importance of language--methinks!

Villanelle....Joyce wrote a short story that included one, I think. Must go check. Thomas sure made good use of the form, though. Those Celts...

Cloudia said...

interesting! I love archaic words AND serifs, and your blog!!

Squirrel said...

I liked this groovy post. It was gear.

Squirrel said...

I agree with you on fonts, although I like the PaRtY font and good old Harry fat & bold

magiceye said...

wonderful post ...
loved your conclusion!

Kallen305 said...

Great post today. I love learning something new and now I have a new word! I hear you on what is hip and what is not as far as words are concerned. I always seem to be a step or two behind my kids!

Rachel Fox said...

I love villanelles (but I like your guess at its meaning better!). I have a villanelle about Radiohead which is one of mine that people seem to like most. I like mixing old and new.
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