through the screen doors of discretion

Posts tagged with 'language'.


The languages I’ve created for the shows I work on come out of the naturalist tradition… The realism of a language is grounded in the reality (fictional or otherwise) of its speakers. If the speakers are more or less human (or humanoid) and are intended to be portrayed in a realistic fashion, then their language should be as similar as possible to a natural language.

David J. Peterson, discusses how he created the languages of Dothraki and Valyrian for Game of Thrones.

GIF: via


i am fond of the term “partner” because it is not immediately clear whether you are in a romantic relationship with the person to whom you are referring, or whether you are a team of bank robbers or detectives or something

(via lauraolin)

"Poetry is a kind of witchcraft. We have the power to manifest, to call forth, to make what didn’t happen, happen. I think of the griots who delivered stories from town to town, the soothsayers and playwrights and brujas, all the ceremonies and dedications and incantations and proclamations, everything that starts with the word. And how the word gains its power by being spoken and handed to the next person and how what we write will last longer than our skins, our poems are the truest husks of our former selves."
Rachel McKibbens, interviewed by Leah Umansky for Tin House (via nps2013)

(Source: bostonpoetryslam, via thetinhouse)


Enough With the Word ‘Netizen’

As a person immersed in China writing for several years, I’ve grown accustomed to the particular nomenclature which comes with the field. There’s “China’s rise,” of course. “Getting old before they get rich,” “mass incident,” “leftover women,” and “little emperors” are others you see a lot. Some of these words are better than others (“mass incident” is kind of weird, if you think about it), but, during the course of my work, I’ve come to terms with them.

But there’s one term that I cannot stand, a term that I, normally a flexible sort of guy, simply refuse to use. That term is “netizen.” You’ve probably seen it around: Mainstream newspapers and magazines use “netizen” liberally, usually without explanation. And, despite occasional pushback—Time once included the term in its list of words to be killed in 2012, and even the China Daily mused about banning it—“netizen” lives on.

I understand this, I really do. I understand that netizen sounds better than “internet user,” and that a precise Chinese translation of the word—wangmin—is widely used.  But it’s time to get rid of “netizen.” It’s inaccurate, obsolete, and outdated—the verbal equivalent of an East German phone book.

Read more. [Image: Carlos Barria/Reuters]

This was my personal mission too when I was working with Global Voices - I find the usage grating because it alienates many people who would otherwise be interested in this content. Here’s to hoping it fades out. 

But when would permission be granted? All heads swiveled when an unassuming woman perched on a folding chair in the corner urged Ms. Rashad to pay attention to a modest word that risked passing without notice in the rush of bantering verse.

“Though,” the woman said, pausing for a few seconds to highlight the moment when Juliet signals that a kiss can be bestowed.

“It’s that devastating little word that opens the door to the play,” she said. “We worry about the big words in Shakespeare. But she would have silenced him, if she didn’t use that ‘though.’ 

Letting Lips Do What Hands Do,” Jennifer Schluessler, NYT, Sept 13, 2013. 

I really do have days where I think, damn, should have become the Shakespeare scholar instead. It was a possibility once. Happy now, but I have moments of lust for those other lives…

While the creators of EDM bangers and brostep anthems try ever harder to be “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,” Daft Punk willfully chose to sound Older, Slower, Smoother, Weirder.

As Vanity 6 (see their song “Make Up”), Whigfield (see the video for “Saturday Night”), and Leigh Bowery already realized, sometimes the best part of going out is the preparation beforehand, and “Doin’ It Right” seems perfectly designed for putting yourself together, physically, emotionally, sartorially, and otherwise, before you step out into the summer heat and try to get into some trouble.

words are chopped into single phonemes and doled out with a telegraphic dot-dash staggering that lines up strictly with the kick drum, as if someone had inserted a period after each phoneme: “ If. You. Lose. Your. Way. To. Night. That’s. How. You. Know. The. Ma. Gic’s. Right.” Sorry to slobber here, but the layering of this oddly stilted utterance over the latticework of faster vocoded voices is a stroke of genius, and it’s the kind of trick that makes you listen to this song over and over, singing it to yourself while folding laundry, humming it en route to the corner store, slapping it onto mixtapes. 

…“Doin’ It Right” sounds shockingly clean, fresh, new and self-sufficient. Unconcerned about the past, the song seems slanted entirely towards the future, the imminent “will be” in which everybody will be doin’ it right. Day after day, this song whispers to you about the “tonight” that is yet to come, and arches with anticipation towards it.

Dr. Drew Daniel on Daft Punk for TheTalkhouse, July 30, 2013. 

I’ve used this song and the lyrics in a few talks since the album dropped to illustrate what happens when real community emerges online - that when it is done right, everybody will be dancing, no one excluded. EDM did become bromancey in the past few years. 

Great piece for the phoneme observation alone (and there’s much more in the whole thing). 

Trung is already losing what linguists call verbal art–storytelling, ritual language, speeches, riddles, and jokes–as well as grammatical nuances, terms for rare flora and fauna, and words like shv31wer55mon55, cu55nvm53 (“rain that falls when hunters are soon to return”), and shong31met55ni55 (“the fifth day after today”).

- Ross Perlin, “VNG31GYEU53SVR55: How to read the dictionary of an endangered language,” Harper’s, August 2013.

Any day now Tumblr might start supporting superscripts in text posts. All those above in the italicized or bolded words should be superscript (but the formatting seems to disappear when publishing the post). 

"African Americans are victim not just to gross racial profiling, as was Trayvon Martin, but also to linguistic discrimination, a little-understood prejudice that springs directly from linguistic prescription. Some forms of prescription, like rules against split infinitives and ending sentences in prepositions, illogically impose grammatical rules that do not naturally occur in language, but are, on some level, harmless. Others, like our culture’s categorical repudiation of African American English, have social ramifications easily as severe as racial profiling. It can be awfully difficult to excel in school, to succeed in the professional world, or to deliver credible testimony in court when virtually every institution in your society operates with the assumption that your language is fundamentally incorrect and takes it as an indicator of your intelligence."


—Eavan Boland, Poetry, October 1995

At, David C. Ward surveys the contributions of female poets, including Adrienne Rich, Marianne Moore, and Eavan Boland:

Writing her way out from under the patriarchal inheritance of Irish literary traditions, Boland radically stripped her language and lines down to the essentials. In a series of autobiographical investigations, she remakes language, expressing not only her own artistic autonomy, but the multitudinous roles and traditions that she embodies as a modern woman writer.

Ward looks at several female poets included in “Poetic Likeness: Modern American Poets,” an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery through April 28. 

Find more poems for St. Patrick’s Day.

Boland is one of my favorite poets - I always sneak her “That The Science of Cartography is Limited” onto syllabi because associating a map with a people (in that poem, a famine road with the labor to build it) is helpful for thinking about who gets to write history and name things. 

bright distances/ is such an amazing line in this one.