Archive for ‘Language’

June 7, 2017

Woke

Awaken, My Love

BLM

Woke is a slang word from African American vernacular which refers to a perceived awareness of issues concerning social and racial justice. The related phrase ‘stay woke’ refers to a continuing awareness of these issues. Its widespread use since 2014 is a result of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, a decentralized campaign against violence and systemic racism toward black people.

‘Oxford Dictionaries’ records early politically conscious usage in 1962 in the article ‘If You’re Woke You Dig It’ by William Melvin Kelley in ‘The New York Times’ and in the 1971 play ‘Garvey Lives!’ by Barry Beckham (‘I been sleeping all my life. And now that Mr. Garvey done woke me up, I’m gon stay woke. And I’m gon help him wake up other black folk.’)

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May 24, 2017

Product Naming

rose by any other name

Product naming is the discipline of deciding what a product will be called, and is very similar in concept and approach to the process of deciding on a name for a company or organization. Product naming is considered a critical part of the branding process, which includes all of the marketing activities that affect the brand image, such as positioning (the place that a brand occupies in the mind of the customer) and the design of logos, packaging, and the product itself.

The process involved in product naming can take months or years to complete. Some key steps include specifying the objectives of the branding, developing the product name itself, evaluating names through target market testing and focus groups, choosing a final product name, and finally identifying it as a trademark for protection.

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April 17, 2017

Idiot Plot

Burn After Reading

In literary criticism, an idiot plot is ‘a plot which is kept in motion solely by virtue of the fact that everybody involved is an idiot’ and where the story would otherwise be over if this were not the case. It is a narrative where its conflict comes from characters not recognizing, or not being told, key information that would resolve the conflict, often because of plot contrivance.

The only thing that prevents the conflict’s resolution is the character’s constant avoidance or obliviousness of it throughout the plot, even if it was already obvious to the viewer, so the characters are all ‘idiots’ in that they are too obtuse to simply resolve the conflict immediately.

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February 21, 2017

Vatnik

vatnik

Vatnik (Russian: ‘cotton-padded jacket’), a derivative of and often shortened to ‘vata’ (Russian: ‘batting’), is a derogatory social slang neologisms in Russian and Ukrainian languages, and an internet meme used in reference to individuals with pro-Russian jingoist and chauvinist views. In the original meaning, ‘vatnik’ (also ‘telogreika’) is a cheap cotton-padded jacket.

The meme was created by Anton Chadskiy under the pseudonym ‘Jedem das Seine.’ His associated picture of an anthropomorphic square-shaped quilted jacket similar to the cartoon character ‘Spongebob Squarepants’ was first posted on Russian social network ‘VK’ September 9, 2011. The meme went viral in 2012, but became much more widespread in society after the Russian military intervention in Ukraine started in 2014. Chadskiy, claiming he feared political persecution, left Russia in late 2014.

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December 29, 2016

Bloom County

milo bloom

academia waltz

Bloom County is an American comic strip by Berkeley Breathed which ran from 1980 until 1989. It examined events in politics and culture through the viewpoint of a fanciful small town in Middle America, where children often have adult personalities and vocabularies and where animals can talk.

The fictional setting of ‘Bloom County’ served as a recurring backdrop for the comic and its sequels, although the nature of the setting was frequently altered. In the comics, the county is presented as a stereotypical American midwestern small town. The small town setting was frequently contrasted with the increasing globalization taking place in the rest of the world; though Bloom County contained the likes of farmers and wilderness creatures by default, it was frequented by Hare Krishnas, feminists, and rock stars.

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December 20, 2016

Post-truth Politics

fake news

brexit

Post-truth politics (also called post-factual politics) is a political culture in which debate is framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of policy, and by the repeated assertion of talking points to which factual rebuttals are ignored. Post-truth differs from traditional contesting and falsifying of truth by rendering it of ‘secondary’ importance.

While this has been described as a contemporary problem, there is a possibility that it has long been a part of political life, but was less notable before the advent of the Internet. In the novel ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four,’ George Orwell cast a world in which the state is daily changing historic records to fit its propaganda goals of the day. Orwell is said to have based much of his criticism of this on Soviet Russian practices.

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December 13, 2016

Whataboutism

And you are lynching Negroes

Whataboutism is a term describing a propaganda technique used by the Soviet Union in its dealings with the Western world during the Cold War. When criticisms were leveled at the Soviet Union, the response would be ‘What about…’ followed by the naming of an event in the Western world.

It represents a case of ‘tu quoque’ (Latin: ‘you also’) or the ‘appeal to hypocrisy,’ a logical fallacy which attempts to discredit the opponent’s position by asserting the opponent’s failure to act consistently in accordance with that position, without directly refuting or disproving the opponent’s initial argument.

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November 15, 2016

Steve Ditko

spiderman

steve ditko

Steve Ditko (b. 1927) is an American comic book artist and writer best known as the artist and co-creator, with Stan Lee, of ‘Spider-Man’ and ‘Doctor Strange.’ As of mid-2012, Ditko continues to work at a studio in Manhattan’s Midtown West neighborhood. He has refused to give interviews or make public appearances since the 1960s, explaining in 1969 that, ‘When I do a job, it’s not my personality that I’m offering the readers but my artwork. It’s not what I’m like that counts; it’s what I did and how well it was done…. I produce a product, a comic art story. Steve Ditko is the brand name.’ He has, however, contributed numerous essays to Robin Snyder’s fanzine ‘The Comics.’

Ditko studied under ‘Batman’ artist Jerry Robinson in Manhattan at the Cartoonist and Illustrators School (later the School of Visual Arts). He began his professional career in 1953, working in the studio of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, beginning as an inker and coming under the influence of artist Mort Meskin. During this time, he then began his long association with Charlton Comics, where he did work in the genres of science fiction, horror, and mystery. He also co-created the superhero ‘Captain Atom’ in 1960.

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November 14, 2016

Snob

Duke of Bedford's Book of Snobs by Nicolas Bentley

A snob is a pejorative term for a person who believes there is a correlation between social status and human worth. The term also refers to a person who judges, stigmatizes others and believes that some people are inherently inferior to others result from the perception of beliefs, values, intellect, creativity, talent, wealth, occupation, education, ancestry, ethnicity, relationship, power, religion, physical strength, class, taste, prestige, beauty, nationality, and fame. The word ‘snobbery’ came into use the first time in England during the 1820s.

English social commentator William Hazlitt observed, in a culture where deference to class was accepted as a positive and unifying principle, ‘Fashion is gentility running away from vulgarity, and afraid of being overtaken by it,’ adding subversively, ‘It is a sign the two things are not very far apart.’ The English novelist Bulwer-Lytton remarked in passing, ‘Ideas travel upwards, manners downwards.’ It was not the deeply ingrained and fundamentally accepted idea of ‘one’s betters’ that has marked snobbery in traditional European and American culture, but ‘aping one’s betters.’

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October 17, 2016

Pussy

pussy-bow

pussy-riot

The word pussy is a noun, an adjective, and in rare uses a verb in the English language. It has several meanings, including use as slang, as euphemism, and as vulgarity. Common meanings of the noun include ‘cat,’ ‘coward or weakling,’ and ‘the human vulva or vagina.’ Because of its multiple senses including both innocent and vulgar connotations, ‘pussy’ is often the subject of double entendre, including the late-19th-century vaudeville act the Barrison Sisters, who performed the notorious routine ‘Do You Want To See My Pussy?’ in which they raised their skirts to reveal live kittens.

The etymology of the word is not entirely clear. Several different senses of the word have different histories or origins. The feline variant comes from the Modern English word ‘puss,’ a conventional name or term of address for a pet cat in several Germanic languages, including Dutch (‘poes’) and Middle Low German (pūse). The word puss is attested in English as early as 1533. Earlier etymology is uncertain, but similar words exist in other European languages, including Lithuanian (puižė) and Irish (puisín) as traditional calls to attract a cat.

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September 27, 2016

Logo

manet bass

A logo is a graphic mark, emblem, or symbol commonly used by commercial enterprises, organizations and even individuals to aid and promote instant public recognition. Logos are either purely graphic (symbols/icons) or are composed of the name of the organization (a ‘logotype’ or ‘wordmark’).

In the days of hot metal typesetting, a logotype was one word cast as a single piece of type, e.g. ‘The’ (as opposed to a ‘ligature,’ which is two or more letters joined, but not forming a word). By extension, the term was also used for a uniquely set and arranged typeface or colophon (a brief description of the manuscript or book to which it is attached). At the level of mass communication and in common usage, a company’s logo is today often synonymous with its trademark or brand.

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September 13, 2016

Three Wishes Joke

genie

the monkeys paw

The three wishes joke is a form of joke in which the protagonist is given three wishes by a supernatural being, and fails to make the best use of them. Common scenarios include releasing a genie from confinement – perhaps finding an old oil lamp and rubbing it; catching and agreeing to release a mermaid or magical fish; or crossing paths with the devil.

The protagonist of the joke makes their first two wishes and finds that all is well. Often, the third wish is either misinterpreted, or intentionally granted in an awkwardly literal fashion, and cannot be reversed because it is the final wish, resulting in the punchline of the joke. Alternatively, the wishes are split between three people, with the last person inadvertently or intentionally messing up or undoing the wishes of the others with their wish to form the punchline.

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