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Suggestions for future shows
PostPosted: Wed Oct 25, 2006 5:28 pm Reply with quote
jengels
 
Joined: 25 Oct 2006
Posts: 2


Today I heard a program on NPR. Book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews The Shakespeare Wars by Ron Rosenbaum. It?s short and you can listen to it over the net at:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6381425



In it Ron talks about Shakespeare, and how in his time language was not as "anchored" as it is now. By that I understood they meant that the meaning of words was not as fixed as it is now and words had multiple meanings. So each time you listen to Shakespeare you could find new meaning in his plays. This concept of language seems intriguing. Perhaps you could discuss this in a future episode.

Another suggestion I have for a show is implied by your slogan for Washington DC - the capital of obfuscation and acronym. Again, on NPR in the past, and probably other places as well, people have spoken about how the republicans in particular have redefined the meaning of words such as liberal or freedom by way of how they use them and by way of constant repetition and a high number of repetition. Perhaps you can do a show on the evolution of language, or the politicization of language. I don't mean by this that the show should be political and you should take sides, but to discuss the effects of politics on language.

I'm an old listener. Thanks for the show.
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 25, 2006 10:20 pm Reply with quote
Dave
 
Joined: 08 Jun 2006
Posts: 357
Location: Washington, DC


Thanks for this tip. Yes, I think we probably ought to do more with the nature of Washington speech than we have.

We did receive some rather pointed emails last year taking us to task for being "so political" when we occasionally made remarks critical of the Bush administration. I don't think we'd want to be very partisan, but there's also no point in hiding our feelings as citizens.

There is, of course, a particular Washington attitude toward language (promulgated, I must say, by the politicians who come here from all over the country) that sees language as malleable and expedient. In other words, words can mean whatever we decide them to mean, rather than what the rest of the speech community understands them to mean.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 26, 2006 12:18 pm Reply with quote
jengels
 
Joined: 25 Oct 2006
Posts: 2


"There is, of course, a particular Washington attitude toward language (promulgated, I must say, by the politicians who come here from all over the country) that sees language as malleable and expedient. In other words, words can mean whatever we decide them to mean, rather than what the rest of the speech community understands them to mean."

Not only that, but certain words are code words. There are code words that are for politicians. There are code words for the religious right. There is a coordinated system of daily talking points sent to politicians and the media. New phrases are repeated by the media, i.e. FOX News, and politicians that were not used before that quickly become familiar to the public.

Also, concepts are spun by how they are described. For example, there was an inheritance tax. The republicans called it the death tax. It went from a reasonable sounding concept to a evil sounding concept. There are certain people who are very good at this kind of spin and republicans are better at it than democrats. Noam Chomsky said something which I can only loosely paraphrase that stuck in my mind. The heavy club is to communism as the media is to democracy.

Also, to change the subject, I recently listened to a Generally Speaking podcast about Lost (tv) where the hosts got upset because a listener left a message that they rambled off-topic too much and they got upset. I think that podcasters are too thin-skinned. You have thousands of listeners and some of them will like things and some will not. The negative comments will be much more common than the positive. It's your show. You should do what you want. If a certain show doesn't match with a listener's sensibilities they can just turn it off. If they stop listening to the show over one podcast then they didn't care much for the show to begin with. You will never make everyone happy and if you try to the show will become so bland it won't be worth listening to. Look at Rocky and Bullwinkle (showing my age) or Howard Stern (an alumni of mine). I'm going to copy this portion and send it to Stephanie and Cliff Ravenscraft who do Generally Speaking.
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 28, 2006 7:29 pm Reply with quote
julie
 
Joined: 20 Jun 2006
Posts: 47
Location: Washington DC


This seems like a great idea - one really obvious example is the abortion debate - one side describes itself as pro-life, the other as pro-choice. Pro-abortion and anti-abortion are so loaded, and the way they choose to talk about themselves really rings so good. I mean who would not want to be in favor of life? or in favor of choice?

In this case, though, the words really cut to the heart of the matter. The pro life folks really believe in their hearts that abortion ends a life, pro-choice folks really believe that the lack of abortion robs women of the control of their own lives and destinies.

It's a great example, not only because it has spin, it has truth, and it essentialy ends the debate completely. There is no middle ground between these views.

Julie[/b]

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PostPosted: Sun Nov 26, 2006 9:45 am Reply with quote
InDet
 
Joined: 25 Nov 2006
Posts: 1


I had a thought for a show, or perhaps part of a show. It's something that kind of relates to things like sports languange and that, that being the language of subcultures, the way certain phrases develop around groups of people. The first example I can think of is a stoner reference (sorry), and that's "puff, puff, pass," referring to how a marijuana cigarette is shared between people. Each person who is smoking "puffs" the joint (another subculture word, but one more known to the average Joe) two times before "pass"ing it to the next person. Military language also has these words and phrases, for example, the "rear" referring to restroom.

I think it's fascinating how people within a subculture pick up on these things almost immidiately, but many times people outside of that group are left clueless.

Anyway... I signed up to share that, and I'll probably be around. I enjoy the show a great deal. Thanks!
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Show idea: Science jargon
PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2007 4:18 pm Reply with quote
chelsea
 
Joined: 14 Mar 2007
Posts: 3


As producer of the Science Update Podcast, I often come across the jargon scientists invent to describe their discoveries--for example, quark, wormhole, or homunculus. These words are pleasantly evocative and generate excitement about the concepts they represent--which, as a science writer, I like. But they're also more than just jargon--they're cultural touchstones that help us understand (and sometimes misunderstand) ourselves and the world around us. I believe science jargon's power over our language and over our understanding of the world hasn't been explored nearly enough, and I'm hoping you'll do it in a show.

Here are some of my thoughts on the topic:

Most scientists have witnessed how a bad name--for example, The Standard Model--can extinguish public interest in perfectly excellent theory, while a good name--for example, string theory--can spark tremendous public interest in a rather tenuous one. The astronomers are rare in that they have a panel that presides over the naming of new astronomical bodies--and the planets have great names, with the clear exception of Uranus. In particle physics, things are patchier. In a recent magazine article (http://www.symmetrymag.org/cms/?pid=1000087), one particle physicist proposed three rules for naming: Names should be serious and accurate;
it is good to name things after people, but only if you can resist the pressure to hyphenate with two or three extra names; and names should be evocative and inspiring.

Even accessible jargon can mislead people--for example, people tend to believe that black holes, dark energy, and dark matter have more in common than they actually do, since all their names seem so similarly, well, obscure. Ironically, it's probably the most accessible jargon that's most likely to confuse, because it co-opts everyday language. Chaos theory may be the best example of this--people often confuse the mathematical meaning of the term "chaos" for the common meaning, leading to bizarre (if possibly useful) ideas such as "organizational chaos" in business management (the idea that loss of managerial control over an organization will generate a more natural--and hence better--organizational structure).

Even the word "science" can be confusing. As a science writer, I generally understand it to mean an established method of inquiry that relies on systematic observation and experimentation. But I often hear it used more loosely to describe any sort of inquiry or systematized practice (e.g., the science of leadership, the science of wholistic living). This drives me nuts!

I'm sure you'll have many more and deeper thoughts on this. I'm eager to hear what you think.

Your fellow Washington-area podcaster,
Chelsea
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2007 7:44 pm Reply with quote
Dennis
 
Joined: 05 Dec 2006
Posts: 26
Location: Bethesda, MD


Gee, I would delightfully go down the Washington-Speak path or the Science-Speak path. These are excellent ideas for shows. I've heard it said that "if you name it you frame it" and clearly the Republicans do this successfully and with abandon.

Another fellow Washingtonian...

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2007 9:09 pm Reply with quote
Dave
 
Joined: 08 Jun 2006
Posts: 357
Location: Washington, DC


Howard S. and I did a show on techno-jargon way back when, long before we really knew what we were doing. (I was still recording only our Skype conversation, and his half of the conversation sounded pretty bad.)

This is probably a nearly inexhaustable topic. I appreciate your bringing it up. I would not be surprised if we undertake it before long.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 14, 2007 9:43 pm Reply with quote
chelsea
 
Joined: 14 Mar 2007
Posts: 3


Can't wait. I'll be looking for it. I adore your show.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 27, 2009 5:07 pm Reply with quote
Bloomer
 
Joined: 23 Oct 2008
Posts: 136
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA


Dave wrote:
Thanks for this tip. Yes, I think we probably ought to do more with the nature of Washington speech than we have.


The one that bugs me--and here I'm outing myself as a non-Republican--is how Republicans use the noun form "Democrat" in adjectival ways:
a Democrat candidate (vs. a Republican candidate)
the Democrat proposal (compare: Republican proposal)*

While "Republican" is both a noun and adjective form, the other side of the aisle has two forms: Democrat (noun/person) and Democratic (adj.). It always grates on my linguistic sensibilities to hear Rush Limbaugh or John McCain criticize the "Democrat majority" in Congress or the "Democrat foot-dragging." They always seem to say it with a nasty little emphasis, just so it is heard as "distinctive of democratic" (unrelated to democracy). I think they teach that grammatical use in Republican Speech School when new legislators get to Washington.

Because Republicans are trying to make "Liberal" into a four-letter word, I've shifted to talking about "Progressive" causes. It seems we'll be able to use that for a while--until they figure out at Republican Speech School how to make that a pejorative term as well.

Well, it is the dawn of a new political era in Washington. It will be interesting to see how a new (and word-savvy) President shapes the dialogue in the capital of O and A.


* I would say Democratic candidate, Democratic proposal.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 27, 2009 5:18 pm Reply with quote
Bloomer
 
Joined: 23 Oct 2008
Posts: 136
Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA


Dave & Crew,

I have a suggestion for a new discussion. How about helping listeners distinguish between Dialect, Language, and Accent?

For example, I speak the American version (Dialect) of English (the Language) with a Michigan speech pattern (Accent)--unfortunately with an unflattering bit of nasality. Lots of non-specialists confuse these terms. I hear people talking about various "Chinese dialects" even though the Chinese language has one basic written form (with the traditional script being simplified in the past century), yet there are mutually unintelligible speech groups which are called Cantonese dialect, Han dialect, Mandarin dialect. Technically speaking, if speakers cannot understand each other, these are not dialects, but rather separate spoken languages.

Keep up the good work. Love each new podcast.
Alan
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Suggestions for future shows
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