Wednesday, January 11, 2012

He chortled in his joy

Paul's been sitting up lately. Today, while wriggling around, he managed to get himself sitting upright and then stayed there, playing happily, for some minutes. Much as I love the squishy baby stage, watching kids grow up is dang fun.

This evening while watching the Colbert report, Colbert quoted the first stanza of Lewis Carroll's the Jabberwocky. I never memorized the poem, but in high school I hung around with a girl who had and who would regularly quote the poem. Anyway, I must have picked up more than I realized because I was able to finish the last two lines of the first stanza with Colbert. This elicited a strange look from Derrick, who'd never heard the poem (or at least, didn't remember it). We looked it up and I read it aloud, and the funny thing is, many of the words that were nonsense in the poem are, if not common, at least understood (chortled being probably the most obvious). It's not often that one can pinpoint the origin of a word so exactly, which makes the Jabberwocky very, very impressive. Read it and note how many words aren't nonsense anymore.

Over the course of my life I've seen terms coined, words created, especially regarding the internet. When I was a kid a googol was 10 to the 100th power, or a 1 followed by 100 zeroes. Technically, that's still what it means. But if you say the word "google" today people assume you're talking about the search engine or the company that created the greatest search engine we have today. With the pace of language change I wonder how many generations it'll be before the English I speak would be indecipherable to my descendants. Does writing slow the pace of change, or simply preserve it? Or, as in the case of the Jabberwocky, does writing speed at least some changes?

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