Thursday, January 8, 2009
Small boy! Where are you going?
Continuing the theme of language from my last blog, I will start by commenting on the blurb sent to me regarding a spring fabric exhibition in Paris. My designer companion and I attended last September and so knew what to expect this time. It bore out what one discovers if one has a particular specialism, whether through work or as a hobby. The world turns out to be full of villages, each stretched across and around it by the nerves and translucent skin of the internet. An internet village is what an academic colleague of mine once called “an intelligence community”, that is, a collection of like-minded people lightly bound together by an obsession or interest. Be it ancient scrolls, garden gnomes, doom-mongering, sexual proclivity or any other of the infinite range of possibilities you might conjure up, the internet enables you to club or cluster. But this is not the end of the story. As you congeal as a virtual group, you develop a village language, sometimes with arcane acronyms, sometimes with exotic nomenclature as a result of the ingrowing nature of your correspondence. Language serves the purpose of denoting who is on the bus and who is off it, as the late Tom Wolfe had it in his trippy Kool-Aid Acid Test. Anyway, back to a quote from the blurb:
The city silhouette is emerging as harmonious and light coloured. Extreme fineness, omnipresent in suitings as in shirtings, is never ethereal. Lightness feeds on consistency to structure clothing with neat or energetically floaty lines.
Now who writes this? Not a failed poet, I’m sure, but someone who regards language as a novel mix of whatever he or she can extract from a battered thesaurus. The words are extracted and randomised, rendered down further in the artful discourse of a cocktail-sipping focus group and spewed on to the page. At the exhibition (a large enough village of several thousand inhabitants, drawn by the lure of fabric to a Paris suburb) the language is cosseted and repeated like some Gnostic text. It then re-emerges on fashion websites, having become the acceptable lingua franca of the trade.
Meanwhile, language flourishes in other vibrant ways, in Ghana, as I have often mentioned. We were returning home yesterday and the smallest taxi I have ever seen, a Daewoo that would take one passenger and a handbag at maximum, slowed our path. Our driver hooted at it unceremoniously and told us that the translation into English for the twi term for the vehicle, is:
Small boy. Where are you going?