Wednesday with Words: An Active Pursuit of Understanding

Instead of doing a traditional grammar textbook for school, I had to read Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots and Leaves, which I just finished (read my review here). In the book she not only gives the rules of punctuation but constantly argues against our treatment of language on the internet, where ongoing, unpunctuated script, often without any spaces between words (think hashtags), has become completely acceptable. (As the quote is rather long, I was unable to fit it on a picture, so here it is in all its glory)

                The printed word is presented to us in a linear way, with syntax supreme in conveying the sense of the words in their order. We read privately, mentally listening to the writer’s voice and translating the writer’s thoughts. The book remains static and fixed; the reader journeys through it. Picking up the book in the first place entails an active pursuit of understanding. Holding the book, we are aware of posterity and continuity. Knowing that the printed word is always edited, typeset and proof-read before it reaches us, we appreciate its literary authority. Having paid money for it (often), we have a sense of investment and a pride of ownership, not to mention a feeling of general virtue.

All these conditions for reading are overturned by the new technologies. Information is presented to us in a non-linear way, through an exponential series of lateral associations. The internet is a public “space” which you visit, and even inhabit; its product is inherently impersonal and disembodied. Scrolling documents is the opposite of reading: your eyes remain static, while the material flows past. Despite all the opportunities to “interact”, we read material from the internet… entirely passively because all of the interesting associative thinking has already been done on our behalf. Electronic media are intrinsically ephemeral, are open to perpetual revision, and work quite strenuously against any sort of historical perception. The opposite of edited, the material on the internet is unmediated, except by the technology itself. And having no price, it has questionable value. Finally, you can’t write comments in the margin of your screen to be discovered by another reader fifty years down the line.

Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots and Leaves

On my reading list this week:

Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis by J. K Rowling-An awesome Latin translation of the first Harry Potter book! My Latin class is over for the summer, so I’m compensating by trying (struggling) to read something way above my level.

Mossflower by Brian Jacques-I love both Mossflower and Redwall (they are both on my favorite books shelf on Goodreads), but its been a very long time since I read either of them. I’m listening to a really neat production of Mossflower on audiobook. They have different people do the voice of each character, so its like listening to an audio play.

The Holy War by John Bunyan-Another book I’m reading for school. The beginning was a lot like Paradise Lost, but it has gotten significantly more interesting after the first few chapters. Its an allegory, like Pilgrim’s Progress, so all the characters are named things like ‘Captain Resistance’ and ‘Mr. Ill Pause’.

Wednesday with Words is hosted by ladydusk.


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