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The words you love to hate

Mark Liberman has performed a signal service over at Language Log: He has posted an entry on words that get up people’s noses, and has left the comments open (!).

One need not consult a haruspex to anticipate the slowly gathering avalanche of bleats and whines in the comments section.

So, I urge you, go there for amusement at the variety of things people dislike for arbitrary and idiosyncratic reasons, and at their willingness to trumpet inconsequential preferences.

Or go there to vent your own peeves. If you detest moist, gobsmacked, or expressions in French, you will be among your people.

There, not here. Any such manifestation of peevery in the comments here will be speedily deleted.

 

 

Posted by John McIntyre at 9:30 PM | | Comments (22)
        

Comments

According to my experience, the kind of peeving represented by the comments on Language log is due to a lack of qi control. Ken Cohen puts this quite nicely in his Essential Qigong Training Course:

"When you're feeling in a very emotional state, you basically need to calm down, recenter and unstress. The best thing you can do is to practice what the Chinese call Fang Song Gong, which means Deep Relaxation. It also means releasing, and release all the stress, all the tension, down into your support, into the ground. When you're overemotional, this generally means there's too much qi flowing up, you become uptight, you become stuck in the head. The qi is literally rising into the head. To get out of this space, to be grounded and centered, you allow the qi to drop, to sink down."

Becoming grounded and centered works for me when brain gets addled.

I won't be sharing any such words (mainly because I don't have any), but I will wonder aloud why some words grate folks so.

There are certainly words that fall into the category of peeves as an affront to one's sensibility, but the crux of the original thesis seems to be words that provoke a synethesic reaction in people. Words are somehow physically unpleasant to hear. That frankly baffles me.

I would reword that just a little bit: "Some people have a synethesic reaction to certain words and then say they are unpleasant."

I got into synethesia due to the work of Olivier Messiaen's Livre D'Orgue which was his musical/emotional reaction to viewing the Swiss Alps. That is, a seeing --> hearing/feeling crossover.

The reverse made sense to me so I began wandering around listening to music on my Walkman and letting it pick out certain places/angles/lighting that corresponded to the music I liked, photographing such subjects and combining them with sound in slideshows (Son et Lumiere)

According to this way to thinking, these "unpleasant" words have been linked, synesthetically, to unpleasant emotions due to previous experiences and thus the words come to be "unpleasant" as the linkage is below most people's consciousness.

The post and comments over at Langauge Log just serve to remind me that all words are made up words.

Tim

I have that reaction to tout d'Messiaen.

Tout d'Messiaen is wonderful indeed! I was so enamored of his work that I spent three months listening to him play, live, at Église de la Sainte-Trinité every Sunday and then wandering the streets of Paris in the early '70s letting the scenes pop out for me. There was a garbage strike and some of the best shots were piles of plastic refuse speckled with rain. Others were trains de banlieue.

Alas those three months were all the time I had for Paris but the same feeling came from scenes of the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts where I morphed the Messiaen effect with that of Ansel Adams to create my own style.

I once turned pages for a young organist who was subbing at my church after Easter. His Postlude was M's "Prayer of the Father as He Ascended into Heaven" About 3/4 of the way through the piece, he lifted his hands from the keyboard(s), and said,"Oh the hell with it." I couldn't have agreed more. You might have fared better with Durufle.

"Prayer of the Father as He Ascended into Heaven" sounds interesting but way above my pay grade.

Instead, I collapsed the synesthetic effect into a fifth harmony to make it work with Ansel Adams' Black:One-Step-Above-Neutral-Gray:White, or C:G:C which are the two drones on a dulcimer and also the drone of the small squeeze boxes used for Bhajan in India.

While this worked OK for red, green, or blue as they're fully saturated at One-Step-Above-Neutral-Gray, it didn't work for say yellow or purple so I've made some adjustments.

The mainstay is C:G:C as I can almost create that sound by myself chanting OM, or one of the 1,000 names of Lalithatmabika, AKA Quan Yin, Kannon, Tara, et al.

This is getting way off course for You Don't Say so you might want to have a look at www.actual-life.com.

David, what the Sam Hill are you talking about?

P the T, if you click on David's name it takes you to his website. I learned that he once taught English in Japan. From that bit of information, I surmised that what he did was write his original message in either English or Japanese, then put it through one of those fun automatic language translator websites that goes back and forth a few times and comes up with a fairly unrecognizeable and indecipherable result (kind of like when we played telephone as kids).

At least, that's the only explanation I could come up with for his post. Otherwise, it's just gobbledy gook to me. The other reasonble explanation, of course, is that his post makes complete sense but I'm not smart enough to know how. That alternative wouldn't surprise me either.

Oh my … sorry for the confusion. I guess I added too many things that are generally known. I've added some notes in [square brackets].

"Prayer of the Father as He Ascended into Heaven" sounds interesting but way above my pay grade.

[I'm not that up on Messiaen's -- or anybody's -- music.]

Instead, I collapsed the synesthetic effect into a fifth harmony to make it work with Ansel Adams' Black:One-Step-Above-Neutral-Gray:White, or C:G:C which are the two drones on a dulcimer and also the drone of the small squeeze boxes used for Bhajan in India.

[Instead, I simplified the synesthetic effect that Messiaen's was using into just a fifth harmony: C: G: C. (If you don't know what a fifth harmony is, Google "define 'fifth harmony'." I didn't think I needed to add a definition for those into music.) I guess where I went off track is with Ansel Adams and his "world famous" zone system as that's only for those who into serious photography.]

While this worked OK for red, green, or blue as they're fully saturated at One-Step-Above-Neutral-Gray, it didn't work for say yellow or purple so I've made some adjustments.

[For sure if you don't know of Ansel Adams's work this wouldn't make much sense.]

The mainstay is C:G:C as I can almost create that sound by myself chanting OM, or one of the 1,000 names of Lalithatmabika, AKA Quan Yin, Kannon, Tara, et al.

[Likewise, if you aren't familiar with chanting OM, or Quan Yin, Kannon -- patron dieties for China, Japan, Tibet, Vietnam -- this wouldn't make any sense either.]

This is getting way off course for You Don't Say so you might want to have a look at www.actual-life.com.

[I should have put this first, and left the rest to those were were interested enough to look at my web site.]

Dave said: "I guess I added too many things that are generally known."

If that's the case, then I guess I don't know much that is generally known. Oh well, they say ignorance is bliss .

Blissfully yours,
Tim

I guess this just goes to show there's different strokes for different folks. Or maybe it goes to show how one person's Cloud-Cuckoo land is another person's Home land.

Googling either [5th Harmony] or [Fifth Harmony] only turns up about 3,000 hits so I guess it's not as widespread as I thought. However there's a link to the Encyclopedia Brittanica [http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/media/65333/] which has a graphic showing the Octave (2:1), the Fifth (3:2), and the Fourth (4:3) along with links with more detail. One discusses the East Asian tone system so my home-brew connection to Quan Yin and other patron deities isn't so far off.

However, my introduction to the 5th Harmony was via a graduate student in music from the University of Chicago leading groups of friends chanting OM up in the Trinity Alps of Northern California in the early '70s. Men held middle C, women held G. Spacy!

My introduction to Messiaen was via a graduate student in organ from Harvard or Yale -- forget which -- whose thesis was L'vre D'Orgue. He played his tape for the group and it was immediately obvious to me there was some connection to what I was doing photographically.

I'd already started playing the five string dulcimer for my own entertainment and learned that the drone strings were a 5th which went together with my other passion, photography; especially photography based on the work of Ansel Adams (famous for his work in Yosemite Valley, California). When I found that Adams had originally trained to become a concert pianist, it wasn't much of a leap to suspect there was some connection between music and his style of photography.

I picked up the connection to Quan Yin and other patron deities during time spent in India, Sri Lanka, China, and Japan whose chants include a lot of the 5th.

While this may sound way off-topic, according to my experience the 5th is part of becoming grounded and centered that is a major part of these cultures which don't have so many peevers and words they love to hate.

Dave (not so foolish)--I love it!

Tim said 'Dave said: "I guess I added too many things that are generally known."'

True: which shows how much I needed to run it by my editor as I meant to say "I guess I added too many things that aren't generally known."

Unfortunately my editor has had to go to another location as our internet link is having troubles and Skype isn't work well for her classes in Japanese so I'm left to edit my own work which, as usual, is pretty slipshod.

Dahlink, as for "Dave the Fool," after seeing "Patricia the Terse" (and that first comment was indeed terse), I remembered when it comes to Tarot, that's my card. I've also been known as "Gyro Gearloose" and "Dr. Groink" but I think the Fool fits me better.

Don't synesthetic effects vary among individuals?

Esha, I believe that is true.

Dave, weren't fools considered holy in some cultures?

The interval C-G is called a perfect fifth, and has for centuries. The rest just sounds to me like some garbled version of Eastern, New-Age magpie music. And I'm far too much a product of the West to "om' anywhere for any reason, whether up a mountain or up a tree.

Dahlink, it doesn't take much time with Google to get some background on the "The Fool". Here are a couple:

"Throughout human history the persona of the fool and his mythological equivalent, the trickster, has played an essential role, the role of change."
http://www.mythandimage.com/fool.html

"Fools" emerged in medieval England in the13thC. …. The “fool” wore a subtextual connotation of evil, pretending stupidity, often opposing the figure of the wise or holy man in a culture's structure."
http://foolsforhire.com/info/history.html

Wickpedia has a long history of The Fool which contains this:

"The Fool is the spirit in search of experience. He represents the mystical cleverness bereft of reason within us, the childlike ability to tune into the inner workings of the world. The sun shining behind him represents the divine nature of the Fool's wisdom and exuberance, holy madness or 'crazy wisdom'.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fool_%28Tarot_card%29

Something along those lines seems to fit my life. While it's coming from the west, my given name "David" becomes "Da" "Be" De" in Japanese where each syllable can be represented by more than one kanji. The three that were given me mean "Truth" "Long Time" "Seeking" which I would like to think fits my life also.

There are also Fools in Japan, but that's another story.

P the T (and Esha), no need to chant OM to understand the synesthetic effect and how it applies to photography, it was just my introduction to Messiaen's Livre D'Orgue and his concept of synesthesia which he used to created sound that matched what his experience in the Alps.

You can test the idea for yourself by listening at length to L. D'O -- or better yet by putting it on a Walkman or whatever so you can walk around listening to it -- and without looking for/at anything in particular, let something call out to you.

If you find it works for you -- it doesn't work equally well for everybody -- you might also try changing the music and walking in the same area. You'll most probably find that different things call out to you, at least it does for me.

Finally, if you have access to a slide projector, you could gather a group of friends where each person contributes some slides. Then set them displaying one after the other while various styles of music play. I think you'll find that people tend to "Ohhhh" for different slides depending on the music. Or you could get a random collection of pictures and have a group decide which one was "best." Again, the choice seems to depend on the music.

I did the slideshow-music multiple times one summer with 10-15 friends in California and that's what got me interested enough in Messiaen's concept of synesthesia to go to Paris and spend three months listening, walking, and photographing what called out to me. Much later I did the same thing with people in Japan with the similar results. Thus chanting OM is only one example of the synesthetic effect I'm talking about.

Perhaps the best example is a short video I made in Organ Pipe National Monument where the text starts with this:

"There’s really not much I can say about it as when I watch it my talking brain shuts down just as it did when I was there putting into play Olivier Messiaen’s ideas of synesthesia where the visuals and the aurals match: the sequences were shot and edited while the same music was playing.
http://www.actual-life.com/?p=849

Ohhhh. Thanks!

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at john.mcintyre@baltsun.com.
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