geekspeak, or subtraction soup

13 04 2004

(if you don’t get the soup reference, i forgive you temporarily. go amend that. if you don’t get the rest of this, you’re in very good hands. stay there.)

the most important thing about graduate school seems to be the surrender of everything that you’ve ever counted as knowledge before. take, for example, words. i used to know lots of words. they meant things. i could use them to say stuff. write stuff. have ideas, argue about them, get points across to others, communicate, you know. the usual. nice, normal, everyday stuff that most people take completely for granted. it doesn’t work like that anymore. words don’t have meanings. words can’t be trusted. nothing can be trusted. there’s nothing to say, and even if there were, i’d be so completely not qualified to say it. and i’d have to use sign language to do it in (okay, that’s probably way out too), because you can’t just use a word once you know that its meaning is unstable, and you can’t really define it if it’s that unstable, and by the way, most of them are unstable.

this is what i’m doing at school, mom!

these are the words i’ve learned so far (psuedo-alphabetized) that don’t mean anything (but in a dream-like sense I feel but can’t remember that they used to): ability, academic, acquisition, act, action, agency, agent, America, appropriation, argue, argument, assume, audience, author, authority, authorize, belief, binary, border, cause, change, clarity, clear, class, classroom, collapse, compromise, composition, compose, construct, context, convention, conventional, conversation, cooperation, correct, create, culture, data, define, definition, democracy, dialect, dialogue, dichotomy, discipline, discourse, diversity, education, empire, empirical, empowerment, equality, ethnicity, evaluation, evidence, experience, explode, express, expression, expressive, fact, family, field, form, format, generate, generic, general, genre, good, habit, history, historical, idea, ideal, identity, identify, ideology, illuminate, impart, imply, inclusion, incorporate, indigenous, individual, inspire, institution, integrated, interact, internal, invention, knowledge, language, lead to, learn, learner, listen, literacy, literature, literate, local, location, logical, mean, meaning, membership, mind, narrative, natural, nature, nation, nationality, native, objective, observation, opposition, organize, perception, political, position, power, practice, practical, process, produce, proficiency, prove, race, racial, revise, read, reader, recursive, relationship, relative, resistance, revolutionary, rhetoric, rhetorical, service, skill, scientific, science, scholarship, significance, signify, site, structure, student, study, style, social, society, sign, symbol, symbolize, solution, subversive, summary, soverienty, standard, system, systematic, talent, teach, teacher, teaching, technology, term, terminology, text, tradition, type, typical, theory, theoretical, think, transition, translation, truth, understand, use, value, validity, verification, whole, word, work, write, writing.

now: try writing anything scholarly in (or even vaguely near at all) the field of composition and rhetoric without using any of the terms above (because if you use them you have to define them, and if they have no meaning they can’t be defined…)

good luck. if you get anywhere, call me. i’ll be contemplating the rhetorical value of really important service-oriented questions like “you want fries with that?”

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27 responses

13 04 2004
jlfranklin

Go read the LJ of .

14 04 2004
tyra

who’s he?

14 04 2004
pictsy

A lot of those are sociology-grad-school-speak as well, maybe even with different meanings.
The funniest one for me was the word “positive.” In ordinary, everyday life it’s a nice word, a happy word, but in sociology it’s an EVIL word. In sociology “positive” is the opposite of “interpretive” and it refers to turning everything into numbers and statistics. Positivists are evil because they treat people like numbers, and these days that’s not very popular. That’s what I like to do though, so I was a little unpopular in methods class.

14 04 2004
tyra

positivists are evil because they reduce people to numbers, not because they know how to count them! people just want to essentialize and assume if you’re doing numerical data about manymany people you can’t also remember that individually they’re single people. bastards. oh, wait, i just used some of those words i wasn’t supposed to. fuck. >sigh<
i want an mfa. i want my language back. wait, i can’t say that either. fuck. >sigh<

14 04 2004
pictsy

i want my language back.
You may use it, secretly, at night. I give you permission. πŸ™‚

18 04 2004
tyra

THANK YOU!
AAAAAAH-hahaha! πŸ™‚ ::runs devlishly about scribbling words on floors and walls and cats and furniture::
(or, as mark strand says: “i romp for joy in the bookish dark”)

14 04 2004
bluemeg

i’m sad about cooperation. it should exist!

14 04 2004
tyra

well, no, see, it’s more complicated than that. because how can you know if the co-operators are equally balanced in terms of contribution and responsibility if you can’t talk about equality? and is “operation” really what you want to call whatever you’re trying to do together? and how can you tell a true joint-project from manditory-fun and other coopted junctures? head hurt yet? >sigh<

15 04 2004
bluemeg

hmmm…
well if something is working properly one could consider it operating , or in operation. there is not necessarily equality between the parties on this venture. so let’s not worry abotu that… and um the last point, how can you tell? tone of voice when describing? context clues? is it in quotes?
i admit when things are broken down it’s all confusing… i don’t know if my reasoning is enough…

14 04 2004
oghram

For 49 years I muddled along with one definition of the word “friend” that I used as an all purpose measuring device with which to prioritize my dealing with people that I knew. If only I’d gone to college (it was pointed out to me somewhat belatedly) I would have known that “friend” is a nebulous term that means nothing really, save whatever the utterer desires at the moment of utterance. I tend to believe that lexical twistage is a matter of convenience and personal gratification; that in the new age of enlightenment words mean whatever suits our current state and if you can’t follow along, then it’s you that’s the moron.
I wrote a treatise on the word love long ago; it was in the same vein. I agree with a predecessor; I want my language back.

14 04 2004
susanmarie

I resemble–er, I mean–resent this! I mean, hey! I think what I do is cool and fun and interesting, and I get to teach, too! What more could I ask?
But, you know my opinion…

14 04 2004
susanmarie

P.S.–Remember, you can go teach wherever you want. You don’t have to do what some of these “isn’t academia grand” types want to. I went through a lot of this when I was in that evil PhD program in drama years ago, surrounded by folks who seemed to value the sound of their own voices using big words in pomous ways over any kind of teaching or genuine communication. *sigh*
Buttheads
So I went off to play in libraries for a while. And it was okay.

14 04 2004
cheshirrrecat

what people are forgetting is that if we dissect and redefine and dissect and redefine and dissect and redefine all our words, we cant communicate. it amazes me that those people call themselves whatever it is they call themselves–they seem to have forgotten that the fucking point of language is communication. i dont even understand why theyre doing what theyre doing or who theyre doing it for–their circles are just growing tighter, binding their thoughts to themselves.
they all need to sit down, get drunk, eat some fucking pizza and stop taking themselves so goddamn seriously.
(im a little cranky at them for undermining your happiness and sense of balance. sorry.)

18 04 2004
tyra

so, baby, when’re getting that pizza and doin’ that drinkin’? i’ll learn to talk to you in string cheese and red-sauce splashes. to hell w/all of them. πŸ™‚

19 04 2004
cheshirrrecat

hell yeah–philly? πŸ™‚

19 04 2004
tyra

mmmm. pizza in philly. you know, i’ve never really trashed a hotel room…

20 04 2004
cheshirrrecat

theres a first time for everything πŸ™‚ although, i think they charge you for that sort of thing…. and since neither of us are famous rock stars, perhaps we should trash something a little less expensive… ;}

15 04 2004
message_2love

Some reaffirming quotes (or so i personally believe)
From Foucault, The Order of Things: “…men believe that their speech is their servant and do not realize that they are submitting themselves to its demands. The grammatical arrangements of a language are the a priori of what can be expressed in it. The truth of discourse is caught in the trap of philology. Hence the need to work one’s way back from opinions, philosophies, and perhaps even [strike the ‘perhaps’ i say] from sciences, to the words that made them possible, and, beyond that, to a thought whose essential life has not yet been caught in the network of any grammar… now [it is a matter of] disturbing the words we speak, of denouncing the grammatical habits of our thinking, of dissipating the myths that animate our words, of rendering once more noisy and audible the element of silence that all discourse carries with it as it is spoken (297).” then, later: “literature is the contestation of philology:… it leads language back from grammar to the naked power of speech, and there it encounters the untamed, imperious being of words (298).” “[Language]… seeks to re-apprehend the essence of all literature in the movement that brought it into being… upon the simple act of writing.” “at the moment when language, as spoken and scattered words, becomes an object of knowledge, we see it reappearing in a strictly opposite modality: a silent, cautious deposition of the word upon the whiteness of a piece of paper, where it can posses neither sound nor interlocutor, where it has nothing to say but itself, nothing to do but shine in the brightness of its being (300).” and there ends the chapter, “Labour, Life, Language.” it comes to me that the labour of your life is language. so these frustrations are a necessary part of doing it “right”

15 04 2004
message_2love

Oh yeah, and on a lighter note….
you simply made me howl with laughter! I needed a good “right on, sistah!” moment to give me a pick-me-up today:) … may I have a side-salad instead?

18 04 2004
tyra

Re: Oh yeah, and on a lighter note….
as long as you like french-philosopher dressing. all our papers–er, salads–come with it. it’s the only kind we serve.

15 04 2004
west_wind

I want to add some words because I think words are so much fun! I’ve actually really been enjoying certain words lately: fortuidous, ecoteric. Don’t they just *sound* cool? I like clunky words that rumble around in my mouth. And I find them sexy. Anyways, I digress.
become, becoming, body, eye, organs (at this point I’m sure you can tell I’ve been reading Deleuze), effects, mediation, method, movement, place, presence, product, production, quotation marks (here I’m speaking literally), Proper names (literally), representation.
I think it is fascinating how slipperyly I view language these days. It wasn’t until PH’s class that I realized I needed to think about the language I use (and I how I use it), then it wasn’t until Contemporary Poetry that I realized how unstable language is. If you read Derrida it seems like he is constantly having to say, “while I realize such and such a word needs to be discussed in much more detail and is problematic in such and such a way…” He has to say this for like every other word! The man needs an appendix for every sentence! But for some reason I like that too. I find some sort of exhiliration in examining the power of language.
I recognize the frustruation in over-academieizing (I realize I just made up a new word there) language, but there can also be a valuable experience in examining how language can empower and also limit our ways of thinking and views of reality. Not to mention blow our ideas about reality apart.
I will keep thinking about this. I want to talk about words more!! Are there any words that you like to say? Any you find particularly sexy?

15 04 2004
susanmarie

I think we should include on the list all words with -ize on the end. Better yet, people who intractably verbify nouns should be tattooed on the forehead.
…hmmm…but with what, I wonder….

18 04 2004
tyra

at this weekend’s conference, justin s. and i began a list of doozies used in people’s papers:
biologize, indivisiblize, and survivegy were among our favorites…

19 04 2004
message_2love

strategery

19 04 2004
message_2love

Reply to West_Wind…
(for some reason, I am unable to reply to West_Wind’s post directly) West_Wind, Didn’t you write a paper first-year on using hypertext? seems Derrida would benefit from a clickable link on all those ‘problematic’ words. Takes the linearity problem out of writing for those ‘webbish’ (as opposed to linear) thinkers/writers. i’ll have to think more about the sexy word thing. but one current favorite is vulpine. “Reappropriate’ could be considered a classic in my verbal repertoire for a number of reasons. You may have inspired today’s mental distraction and journal posting:) I like words too!:) YAY, words! (OMG, ignore me, please, it’s Monday;)

19 04 2004
susanmarie

The very first academic conference I went to was the International Gothic Association (no, not *those* kind of Goths), and it seemed every panel I went to there was the same annoying man in the audience. At the end, he would ask some incredibly incomprehensible question involving Lacan. Recently I found the program, and I’d scribbled in the margin: “Lacanian doublespeak: your words do not match the movement of your lips.”
I think that line is a poem!

19 04 2004
tyra

it’s a beautiful poem. very-almost a haiku, and no less fabu for being a syllable over. in fact, too-longness sort of suits… πŸ™‚ love it!

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