Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Spinning a yarn

My brother's girlfriend sent me a link today discussing how some non-euclidean shapes can be knitted, and the fact that knitting is helping mathematicians to create tangible examples of higher order geometrical shapes, that otherwise only really exist in theory (and nature).
Shift gears.
I have some concern about theories of effective communication. A training session for work today explained the best way to communicate is to:
-Use the simplest word to convey your idea
-Keep it short, both use the shortest word possible and use the fewest words possible.
-Refrain from the use of advanced words (although they were only called "five-dollar" words... or something with an equally negative connotation)

Essentially, both communicating parties are supposed to come to an understanding that oral communication is extremely fallible and should talk to each other like simpletons to decrease miscommunication.

While my misanthropism begs I bark at others like retards, I disagree on two points:
-Advanced words have a function, and should be used when the shoe fits.
-If everybody communicated as above, our language would devolve to something simpler, and lose some of its capacity for communicating (ie the idea of good communication is an ad-hoc policy that will, over time, decrease our capacity for communication).

Synonyms are not equal... they are similar. Advanced words are best used to convey a more exact meaning. When I say, "many pragmatic arguments exist." I'm not trying to say, that there are "common sense" , or "non-quantifiable," or "practical" , or "realistic" arguments. I'm saying that all of those exist, with a little more emphasis in some areas, and a little less in others. Should I refrain from using that word ever again because it doesn't seem that many people know it? Well it depends on the situation, am I there to make fish dinner or to teach a man to fish?

And that's where my two points overlap. At some points, we must invest in communication with other by teaching them words, by learning words from them. That's how language works, how it evolves. If there was some way we could avoid using words others didn't know, or prevent them from learning when a word is explained, our language's vocabulary would deteriorate (the number of words vs time would decrease exponentially, with an asymptote at the few words "everybody" knows). Let's say everybody is allowed to learn words the first 20 years of their life and after than, no words can be learned, or used if another adult doesn't know them; now fast forward 1000 years. I can tell someone to do a simple task, but I can no longer convey detailed and articulate messages with brevity. Shit, I couldn't explain to them why their grammar is wrong because I wouldn't have the word "preposition."

My point is not that the corporate machine is doing something inherently wrong. It's that language is a beautiful thing, and the better one wields it, the more they can effectively accomplish/communicate.

Yes, there are some advanced or obscure words that are useless, they are advanced and obscure because they are dying; they have been replaced in common vernacular by a more efficient AND equally articulate method. Using advanced words for the purpose of confusion should never be done in the name of honest progress. It just makes you sound like an asshole (<- a word that needs no substitute). Advanced words can be used to express one's self more clearly, and can be a catalyst for respect, progress, and efficacy.

Maybe I've just been reading to much on the crapper... I'm 250 pages into this. While I skimmed about 100 pages, I've found much of it very interesting. It's always fascinating to learn the workings of something you've always taken for granted.

3 Comments:

Blogger Cassy said...

"vernacular"...uh, could you please dumb that down for me. They are probably just afraid of "five dollar words" because they don't know any. I love learning new words. I agree that if we don't use them we lose them. I think you have to use a word an average of 8 times before it becomes part of your vocabulary.

I think I had that book for a class as an undergrad. Maybe I still do in some box.

And yes, knitting rules.

6:26 AM  
Blogger Gregory said...

they are dating still?

hi cassy!

12:46 AM  
Blogger Apayo said...

Give me a gooder word for Shit Ass Feeling...

It's been a month. What's goin' on in that noggin of yours?

1:25 PM  

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