Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Power of Words

By coincidence, and the beauty of podcasting, I listened to two similar stories about words and what they stand for in the space of less than 24 hrs. One of them was also a video, so I suppose I did more than just listen, I watched, but it was still largely about the expressive ability of words. Plus there isn't a verb I know of that would allow me to convey the fact that I listened to one and watched another without resorting to complex compound sentences.

Which would probably have been more succinct than the above paragraph. However...

In a piece on NPR, Alix Spiegel (who until just a moment ago I had always assumed spelled her first name with an "e") looks at our use of symbols, in an effort to understand what makes us modern. The whole piece is a bit long, coming in the second half of All Things Considered's first hour, where lately they seem to be doing 20 minute stories as part of the regular format. It's not entirely about words, and language, either, instead focusing more broadly on symbols in general, of which language plays just one part. It is an important part, though, and it makes you think about the nature of language as well as how we understand it.

And then, in a video, one of my other favorite NPR programs, Radiolab (which is one word despite the insistence of my spellchecker), produced an entire hour-long episode also devoted to words. However, I've not listened to that yet. That won't stop me from recommending it, as I would any of their shows, but in particular I wanted to call attention to what I did listen to/see: the short - only about three minutes or so - film that went along with the episode. This short film is also about words, and it seemed to me to be as much about the symbolic meanings we associate with many of our words ("fall" being an excellent one, with a three-second shot it took me a moment to make the connection for), as was the piece from ATC yesterday.

So I thought I would share.

When Did We First Become Modern?


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