on Sun, 26 Aug 2007 21:08:23 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> language virus


To share my responses to your two posts with the list.

I am sure there are lots of usages that add syllables without
much meaning: e.g. 'at this point of time' for 'now'. You may be
right that they are not exact synonyms and that it is moot which
is 'better'. I am not setting myself up as a style guru, but am
genuinely interested in whether this is a recent development or not.
Fortunately, Christophe Bruno has given me a search engine that would
allow me to pursue the matter historically, if I cared that much. A
related question for me concerns how or whether the increased numbers
of those who speak or write English as a second language on the
internet is changing common usage. I doubt if that is the case here,
but my query had those sort of issues in mind.

Thanks for pushing this further. I too am suspicious of biological
metaphors. I have long been uncertain about the value of calling
whatever they are computer viruses, precisely for the implication
that they are not made by human beings. On this occasion, I loosened
my grip in trying to convey a linguistic infection that replicates
itself without the conscious knowledge of the user. This to my mind
makes some speech tics the opposite of thought. Perhaps I thought
nettimers would readily grasp such a metaphor, but then I flushed you
out and lived to learn my mistake. I am interested that you bring up
the word meme. I may be wrong, but I recall that Dawkins invented it
in The Selfish Gene in order to reduce culture to a similar atomized
logic (I have never been convinced by the concept of gene). I was
surprised some years later to find the word used in some circles to
describe an idea that achieved wide circulation. I resist meme even
more than virus, since I suppose I hate its reductionism in my own
field, story-telling. I doubt if I will convince you that I agree
broadly with all your points. I was being flippant and you caught me.


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