Archive for May 2nd, 2012

May 2, 2012

Unknown Known


Unknown knowns are the things that we know, but are unaware of knowing. The coining of the term is attributed to Slovenian Philosopher Slavoj Žižek and it refers to the unconscious beliefs and prejudices that determine how we perceive reality and intervene in it. It is the Freudian unconscious, the ‘knowledge which doesn’t know itself,’ as French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan said.

Žižek first used the term as a response to former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s statement at a press briefing given in, 2002: ‘There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.’

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May 2, 2012


yo adrian

Yo is an English slang interjection, commonly associated with American English. It was popularized by Italian and African Americans in Philadelphia in the 1970s. It is used to signify informality, close cultural understanding, and communal bonding. It remains very popular among Philadelphia Italian Americans, possibly arising from the Italian language word ‘io’ (meaning ‘I’). In Italian, first person statements are often preceded by io.

Although often used as a greeting, yo may come at the end of a sentence, often to direct focus onto a particular individual or group or to gain the attention of another individual or group. It may specify that a certain statement that was previously uttered is more important, or may just be an ‘attention grabber’ (e.g. ‘Listen up, yo!’). In the Japanese language, the sentence-final particle ‘yo’ is used to emphasize sentences as is often the case in English slang as above, but is etymologically unrelated. ‘YŌ’ is also used by Japanese teens as casual greetings between friends, but is pronounced with a more drawn-out tone.

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May 2, 2012

Phatic Expression

phatic wilde

In linguistics, a phatic expression [fat-ik] is one whose only function is to perform a social task, as opposed to conveying information. The term was coined by anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski in the early 1900s from Greek ‘phanein’ (‘to show oneself,’ ‘appear’).

In Russian linguist Roman Jakobson’s work, ‘Phatic’ communication is that which concerns the channel of communication, for instance when one says ‘I can’t hear you, you’re breaking up’ in the middle of a cell phone conversation. In the modern context, this usage appears in online communities and more specifically on micro-blogging.

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May 2, 2012


aizuchi by ted slampyak

Aizuchi [eye-zoo-chee] is the Japanese term for frequent interjections during a conversation that indicate the listener is paying attention and understanding the speaker. In linguistic terms, these are a form of phatic expression (one whose only function is to perform a social task, as opposed to conveying information).

Aizuchi are considered reassuring to the speaker, indicating that the listener is active and involved in the discussion. Aizuchi are frequently misinterpreted by non-native speakers as agreement on the part of the listener, because common aizuchi include: ‘hai,’ ‘ee,’, or ‘un’ (‘yes,’ with varying degrees of formality); ‘sō desu ne’ (‘I see’); ‘sō desu ka’ (‘is that so?’); ‘honma’ (‘really’); ‘naruhodo’ (‘I see, that’s right’); and nodding. These can be compared to English ‘yeah, yeah,’ ‘yeah, ok,’ ‘got it,’ ‘yep,’ ‘uhuh,’ or ‘go on,’ but are more pronounced and important in Japanese.

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