Films&Stuff: Here I break down the structure of an episode all about breaking down structure. If that’s too meta for you than clearly you’re not a fan of Community.
A deconstruction of one of the greatest episodes of Community.
To decide which words to include in the dictionary and to determine what they mean, Merriam-Webster editors study the language as it’s used. They carefully monitor which words people use most often and how they use them.
This is one of the questions Merriam-Webster editors are most often asked.
The answer is simple: usage.
In an article for the University of Melbourne, Dr David McInnis, a Shakespeare lecturer at the institution, accuses the Oxford English Dictionary of “bias” over its citation of Shakespeare as the originator of hundreds of words in English.
“His audiences had to understand at least the gist of what he meant, so his words were mostly in circulation already or were logical combinations of pre-existing concepts.”
McInnis: If something happens “without rhyme or reason”, people are said to be quoting Shakespeare’s As You Like It, when Rosalind asks Orlando whether he is as head-over-heels in love as his rhymes suggest, and Orlando replies “Neither rhyme nor reason can express how much”.
The OED traces the phrase back to the 1400s – centuries before Shakespeare. So why do we think it’s Shakespeare’s coinage?
Probably because, as happens so frequently, Shakespeare isn’t the first to think of something, but he presents it in such a clever or memorable way, that it becomes firmly associated with his version.
McInnis also traces the roots of other famous ‘Shakespearean’ phrases like “it’s greek to me”, “a wild goose chase”, “eaten out of house and home”. It’s not all OED ‘bias’ however; the bard did have a knack for coining and popularising turns of phrase, like “to make an ass of oneself”…
To describe behaving stupidly and embarrassing yourself as “making an ass of yourself” seems like a very contemporary expression, but Shakespeare seems to have genuinely invented both the easy-to-quote phrase and a very memorable situation. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Bottom the Weaver is magically turned into an ass. Other characters remark upon Bottom’s transformation, but he thinks they’re just mocking him: “This is to make an ass of me, to fright me, if they could.”
What I learned about languages just by looking at a Turkish typewriter, by Marcin Wichary, Design lead & typographer at Medium.
I don’t speak Turkish, and can’t read it either. I have never been to Turkey. I honestly don’t even know that much about Turkey. Why did I ask for a Turkish typewriter, then? Because it has one of the most fascinating keyboard layouts ever.
MIT Technology Review: Scientists at the Computational Story Laboratory have analyzed novels to identify the building blocks of all stories.
Sentiment analysis was used to map the emotional arcs of over 1,700 stories. Then data-mining techniques revealed the most common arcs.
“We find a set of six core trajectories which form the building blocks of complex narratives”
Their method is straightforward. The idea behind sentiment analysis is that words have a positive or negative emotional impact. So words can be a measure of the emotional valence of the text and how it changes from moment to moment. So measuring the shape of the story arc is simply a question of assessing the emotional polarity of a story at each instant and how it changes.
The six basic emotional arcs are these:
A steady, ongoing rise in emotional valence, as in a rags-to-riches story such as Alice’s Adventures Underground by Lewis Carroll. A steady ongoing fall in emotional valence, as in a tragedy such as Romeo and Juliet. A fall then a rise, such as the man-in-a-hole story, discussed by Vonnegut. A rise then a fall, such as the Greek myth of Icarus. Rise-fall-rise, such as Cinderella. Fall-rise-fall, such as Oedipus.
Back in 1995, Kurt Vonnegut gave a lecture in which he described his theory about the shapes of stories. In the process, he plotted several examples on a blackboard. “There is no reason why the simple shapes of stories can’t be fed into computers,” he said. “They are beautiful shapes.”
On Scriptnotes episode 259, screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin had a harsh critique of this research:
Mazin: “Of all of these, this one truly is the dumbest. It’s bad science that provides clickbaiters something to say, but it teaches you nothing. It is the emptiest of noise.”
Michael Tucker: Gone Girl uses classic screenwriting techniques to tell its twisty, modern noir story. This video examines three of the techniques used by screenwriter Gillian Flynn to see how and why they work so well.
(via Laughing Squid)
University of East London psychology lecturer Tim Lomas has corralled some of the most striking non-English words about emotions for Westerners to appreciate. While the words describe phenomena experienced and celebrated by many cultures, no easily-expressible equivalents exist in English.
The paper has two main aims. First, it aims to provide a window onto cultural differences in constructions of well-being, thereby enriching our understanding of well-being. Second, a more ambitious aim is that this lexicon may help expand the emotional vocabulary of English speakers (and indeed speakers of all languages), and consequently enrich their experiences of well-being.
Many of these (like zeitgeist, chutzpa, savoir-faire and nirvana) are in common English usage. I’ve excerpted some of the ones I found most interesting…