Posted by: gdevi | October 1, 2010

Linguistic contamination

It is not the sniffles that bother me, but linguistic contamination. It is truly a sign of the times that it is very easy to get contaminated with stuff you don’t want. One of my really good students had sent me this wonderful website with just photographs of people’s bookshelves and people reading books. Very beautiful concept. The domain name however had the word p*** in it —  appropriate in a tongue-in-cheek manner because the website is addictive the way p*** can be addictive. It is so frustrating that simply because I linked to a website that had the word p*** in it, some creepy links start getting connected to my blog.  This is a functional problem in context-free languages and Artificial Intelligence. Machines are inherently unintelligent if they can’t distinguish between literal p*** and the metaphoric p***.  The word p********* comes from the Greek root porne which means writing pertaining to prostitutes–porne shares that same root as per or price–women purchased for sexual functions–and -graphy from Greek graphein which means to write. The website with photographs of people reading–some of them are women–has nothing to do with pornography. There is nothing that tries my patience as much as this invitation to slime. There is this great moment in Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man where the young Stephen Dedalus finds obscenities scribbled on a statue of Venus de Milo. Amazing, isn’t it?

Here’s a good poem about the mangling of language by technology.

Windows is shutting down by Clive James

Windows is shutting down, and grammar are
On their last leg. So what am we to do?
A letter of complaint go just so far,
Proving the only one in step are you.

Better, perhaps, to simply let it goes.
A sentence have to be screwed pretty bad
Before they gets to where you doesnt knows
The meaning what it must of meant to had.

The meteor have hit. Extinction spread,
But evolution do not stop for that.
A mutant languages rise from the dead
And all them rules is suddenly old hat.

Too bad for we, us what has had so long
The best seat from the only game in town.
But there it am, and whom can say its wrong?
Those are the break. Windows is shutting down.



  1. Actually, it is also very common in the Chinese language.

    • I apologize, but I don’t understand your reference here — I mean I don’t understand what “it” is referring to. Thanks. GD.

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