Sunday, April 09, 2006

Vision Language; Language Visions

I was reading about chiasmus today; that's who's to blame for my title.

The subject, though is the subtle, and not so subtle, ways in which vision is a privileged sense in the English Language. A friend sent along a recommendation for me to look at linguist/SF author Suzette Haden-Elgin's blog, particularly her recent posts on the subject of "sightism" in language. The first post, an excerpt from her book which addresses overemphasis of sight in guided imagery exercises, is a fine introduction to the issue. Or, to put it another way, touch doesn't work the same way and the language we use for touch is considerably less varied.

Being a wordhound myself, I'm particularly fond of her list of now-defunct words. My favorite is
yespen -- a double handful; as much as two hands can hold
I even have a use for it: "We put a yespen of chocolate chips in our corn muffins...." (That's Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix, if you want the full recipe).

Haden-Elgin is a really neat writer, and a serious sociolinguist. I'm not entirely sure that I buy her distinction between poetry and lyrics, for example, but I love the attempt.

Why doesn't my reading list ever get shorter?

1 comment:

ArticulateDad said...

Sounds interesting. I like yespen. The whole post reminds me of a favored phrase of my almost-4-year-old (only 6 days!). The Painter, curiosity incarnate, says: "don't say 'I see' when you don't see... say, I understand!"