Elsewhere on the Internet: Language Acts and Artifacts

From The Toast, linguist Gretchen McCulloch offers a sort of taxonomy of doge, a meme which startled and perplexed me the few times I encountered it.

Her explanation helps contextualize both the syntax of the doge meme and its appeal. Internet dialects are taking up the same kind of space as a silly accent or character speech would; people will play with language for hilarity and emphasis, and it is fascinating to see how these things grow organically in text. It’s such fun, too, to look at playful systems of speech which appear to be breaking language apart but which actually follow strict rules that become all the more apparent when you see bad doge. (Like these clunky attempts to doge-ify classic literature. Very syllable!)

I’m glad I’ve been pointed to McCulloch’s work in general: here is a collection of her thoughts on the construction “because ___,” an abbreviation that feels so natural to me that the words had been rolling out of my mouth long before I was aware of hearing or seeing it used by anyone else. For example, cooking with my neighbor, one of us will often ask “Should we add this ingredient to this thing?” and the other will respond “Yes, because delicious” or sometimes just “Yes, because [meaningful pause, indicating the merits of said ingredient are self-evident].”

For Valentine’s Day, another of my favorite internet linguists Arika Okrent offered the linguistic breakdown of a kiss–or  bilabial lingual ingressive click.
The long form sounds surprisingly appealing, despite having way too many syllables for doge style.

Today is Edward Gorey’s birthday. Of all the posts and reposts I saw in his honor today, my favorite has to be this Paris Review piece from a couple of years ago about a writer who won one of Edward Gorey’s actual fur coats in an auction.

I was a little astonished to learn of how many fur coats the man owned. Of course I was used to seeing them in his artwork; I’ve been sending out numerous postcards this year to honor a New Year resolution to communicate more frequently in print, and I am sure that several friends have received postcards featuring fur coats in Goreyland.


But then, like most artists and writers whose work I enjoy, I think of Edward Gorey as an amorphous attachment to his work, or an abstract idea behind it. I don’t think of him as a formerly corporeal being, with a body that enjoyed warmth and texture, a body that left behind intimate traces such as a coat. But once that idea occurs, it can take possession of the mind. Reading about the auction bidders’ pursuit of these decades-old coats, I was reminded of Proust’s Overcoat: the story of a man who befriended the executors of Proust’s estate in hopes of acquiring not just his papers–things of potential literary value–but his things, object he had touched or worn or loved.


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