Category: language

tears-of-joy-emojiQuestion : When is a word not a word?
Answer : When it’s a pictograph.

This is not a joke and it makes the  Oxford English Dictionary’s decision to name the ‘Face with Tears of Joy’ emoji as this year’s word of the year a very odd one indeed.

A more logical move would have been to give the title to ’emoji’ , a  word borrowed from Japanese to denote   ‘a small digital image or icon used to express an idea or emotion in electronic communication’.

The key word in this definition is ‘image‘. Unless Oxford University Press (OUP) have plans to turn their dictionary into a picture book it’s hard to fully understand the reasoning behind this.

Casper Grothwahl, the President of the Dictionaries Division highlights that these staples of teen texting culture have now entered the mainstream and therefore that there was a need to acknowledge what he calls this  “obsessively immediate” form of communication.

More and more reference books now exist primarily in a digital format with embedded videos and suchlike. This obviously reflects the way we consume information but a distinction should still be made between  language we use (i.e. words) and their visual equivalents.

Oxford Dictionary wants to be seen as an up to date resource rather than as a dusty repository of dead or dying language but I think they’ve made a dumb call here.



Original  Coca Cola image designed by Karina Nurdinova based on Bank’s letter.

My ‘Ads Are Not Innocent‘ poem in yesterday’s post was inspired by Banksy’s Letter On Advertising.

This was in turn inspired by Sean Tejaratchi’s 1999 essay, ‘Reciprocity In Theory And Practice’ which appeared in issue 1 (Death, Phones, Scissors) of Tejaratchi’s clip art zine Crap Hound.

The similarities are obvious. For instance, the American wrote “Why should I ask an assailant’s permission to keep a rock he’s just thrown at my head” while Banksy’s version reads: “Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head”.

Given that the thrust of the two men’s argument is that whatever is in the public domain is free to use and manipulate, the plagiarism by Banksy is ironic bit is no crime.

His ‘borrowing’ of Tejaratchi’s words is graciously put into context in a ‘let’s set the records straight’ statement.

LIKE A ROLLING STONE – BOB DYLAN AT THE CROSSROADS by Greil Marcus (Faber & Faber, 2006)

Greil Marcus is a man of many words. His verbosity is not to everyone’s taste. Many readers have, with just cause, accused him of being deliberately obtuse and willfully pretentious.

At the same time, his scholarly writings on music and cultural history are well worth the effort since they are frequently illuminating and consistently insightful.

Bob Dylan, the man and his music, is a subject he comes back to time and time again; taking fresh aims at a moving target he knows will never be fully defined.

It is the very elusiveness of Dylan that makes him so intriguing.

In this book, Marcus tells the story of ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, charting the song’s origins and impact. He rightly identifies this as being more than just another rock song but, rather, a unique work of art more akin to an event. It may not have changed the world but it certainly set a new benchmark for what could be achieved in popular music. Continue reading

HAMLET directed by Laurence Olivier (1948)
HAMLET directed by Franco Zefferelli (1990)


How about this as a summary of Shakespeare’s most famous play turned movie?:

“This is the tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind.”.

If that seems too reductive, how about this:

“A guy comes home from school to discover that his father’s dead. To top it all off his mother is horsing around with his uncle. Add to that, the ghost of the old man comes back to tell him that it was his uncle who knocked him off so he could run off with the Queen. The guy goes off his nut”.

The first is Laurence Olivier’s voiceover before the main action begins.

The second is from an interview with Mel Gibson included in the extras on the DVD of Zefferelli’s film.

Frankly, neither really cuts the mustard but both are obviously aiming to pitch the story in an accessible fashion. Continue reading

Short Skin – I dolori del giovane Edo’ directed by Duccio Chiarini (Italy 2014) 

Edoardo, or Edo (Matteo Creatini), is a serious, sensitive and intelligent 17-year-old virgin whose hormones are at odds with his physical development.

He would like very much to have sex but is frustrated in his fumbling attempts to do the deed primarily because he suffers from phimosis, or tight foreskin.

This is a delicate subject for me as I also have this condition although fortunately not to the degree that it causes serious discomfort or pain. It did however make me wonder if I would have had a better sex life if this condition could have been corrected in my teens.

Unlike women, who visit gynecologists as routine means of maintaining physical well-being, men would only visit doctors or urologists if they had problems and even then might put off a visit as long as possible. I can never remember any doctor checking my privates and I have never volunteered to be probed in this area. Continue reading


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