The Poetics of Spoons

Day 13: Wednesday

Good morning Zak,

As you know, Zak, the German language has some really wonderful words that don’t correspond well with concise translations in other languages.  The most difficult thing to translate, though, is not the meaning of a word, but its terrifying sound.  The next time someone dawdling in front of you keeps you from crossing the street, try yelling Sondersprache! at them, and see what happens.

Chances are nothing will happen.  They might look at you funny.  If they speak German, they might be very confused.  But you’re only doing this for personal satisfaction anyway.

Today’s unusual use for a spoon: curling your mustache whiskers with the tip of the handle.  Zak, I bet you didn’t realize that this blog also occasionally publishes unusual uses for spoons.  It’s actually the only peer-reviewed section on Thily Fin.

Aside from being a really great insult for non-German speakers, the word Sondersprache is also a term used by German philologists (language scholars) that means “specialized language.”  Usually a Sondersprache is a variation of a larger language—like Modern English for example—used and understood by only a smaller subset of people.

These days we might think of Harry Potter fans or Lord of the Rings buffs examples of those kinds of subsets.  They probably would rather I didn’t call them “buffs,” but I can’t just reuse the word “fans.”  I know “buffs” sounds like some kind of disgusting condiment your uncle orders on his hot dog that makes it smell like death itself, but what do you want me to call them?

Sometimes poetry works a lot like spoons.  It’s all about finding unusual uses of things.  Of images for example.  cf. this fantastic piece.

For anyone unfamiliar, cf. is an abbreviation for conferre, a Latin term meaning “hashtag.”

Zak, the problem with using a Sondersprache is that it tends not to be a very efficient way to communicate.  That’s why as more and more people begin to use a particular language, it tends to lose the rich expressive qualities characteristic of a Sondersprache.  What happened to all the crazy weird grammatical forms that used to exist in German, Latin, Greek, English etc?  Well, to put it bluntly, people happened.

It’s very difficult to preserve the unique richness of smaller subcultures, since societal pressure tends toward conformity, efficiency, and automation.  Some people think that Universities might be able to serve as havens for cultural depth.  Others have found the internet to be a rich place for diversity… or at least diversity of a certain kind.

Then there are also well respected authors who feel that language should simply strive to be as transparent and efficient as possible.

Some of our readers might be a part of that too often marginalized people-group of shoelace-enthusiasts.  If anyone happens to be a part of that group, I feel for you.  Shoelaces are an endlessly rich and fascinating facet of the human experience, and outsiders have trouble understanding this.  Take for example this brilliant checkered design with a specialized aglet:

Shoelace

An aglet, for all the muggles out there, is a term relating to the study of shoelace anatomy.  Essentially, it refers to the glossy tip at the end of a shoelace.  You’d have to be a part of shoelace-enthusiast culture to  understand this fully, since aglet is a specialized term that really only us shoelace buffs know how to use properly.

Until tomorrow,

Tim

 

 

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