2005-11-24 0945 Writing: == Words have long necks because they stretch for the highest leaves == Damn this is turning . . .

Words have long necks because they stretch for the highest leaves

Damn this is turning into a photoblog. The last three entries have been solely about photography, so this one is going to buck that trend. No photos. Promise. I won’t even talk about photography, not even to mention that yesterday was about the best photo day I’ve had for ages with seven great shots in the bag. I’m not going to tell you that the pics are up at yesterday’s page on Flickr. (The eighth one up there isn’t mine – it’s my edit of SuperFantastic’s shot as posted a few blogposts below). I’m not going to tell you to take a look.

Because this post is about words, not pictures.

Words are important to me; the evolution of language mirrors our own in every way. I’m pretty sure there’s some crazed Amercians out there who will claim that language was Intelligently Designed just as it is now 6,000 years ago by a nebulous omnipotent beiong who only listens to rich bigots (apologies to the nice Christians out there, but facts are facts).

A lot of the language of evolution applies to languages too. The way that English as spoken in the United States has diverted from English as spoken in England. In some ways, the USA speak an “older” English than we do in the UK, because of the date when the divergence occurred. An example of this is that we say “pavement” because it’s paved; something that only became common long after the 18th century. In America it’s just a “sidewalk” – no reference to the surface at all, just a place at the side where you walk. That’s much more medieval logic.

Similarly, there’s convergent evolution too; many languages, even the most unrelated ones have common word forms that spring up. The most cited example of this is the word for mother. It’s almost universally based around the “Mmmm” sound. It’s one of the first sounds a baby can make, so it makes sense for it to be the sound associated with it’s mother.

Makes me wonder what direction langbuages are going to take in the next evolutionary twists and turns. The Internet and the rise of global communication is the linguistic equivalent of an asteroid striking. It’s already strarted to change the way that words are used, and thrown up many fun new ones too. Without the internet there would be no “blog”, “wiki”, “lol”, “wtf” or “sumotech”. There’d be no emoticons either – those wonderful pictograms that encapsulate whole emotions in a simple icon-sketch. In many ways they are an evolutionary throwback to much, much earlier writing forms.

I’m pretty sure the ancient Egyptians would approve of the smiley. ☺

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