Changes in the way we pronounce certain sounds tell us a lot about our changing values

Damien Hall’s article in The Conversation got me thinking about language as a virus.

William S. Burroughs once wrote that “language is a virus from outer space”. Hall’s insights might go some way to understand how the virus mutates and spreads power.

The article argues that regional variations of language spoken in Normandy reflect changes in the language spoken in Paris. The people of Normandy look to Paris for the “best way” to speak French. When the language in Paris mutates, the Parisian strain spreads to Normandy, taking with it the power of Paris.

We all learn to talk by listening to those around us. The way we speak organises the way we think. How words are spoken, and sentences structured, communicates a logic. That logic organises a specific way of understanding the world. Regional accents not only connect people to a specific area, but also to unique way of life.

Take for example the different ways English is spoken throughout the United Kingdom. The dominant culture in the UK is centred in the South. The way people think in the South is not the same as people in the North. The culture is different, because the logic is different, because the language is different. We may all speak English, but Northern English is not the same as Southern English. It’s more than just an accent, it’s a set of values.

I think there’s a strong argument to be made, that the media spreads the Londoncentric virus, allowing it to dominate the farthest reaches of the country. It changes the way people speak, and think, and understand the world.

Burroughs’ “cut up” technique may offer a way of immunising ourselves against this homogenising virus. By cutting into his text Burroughs was able to create new words, new sentence structures, new logics, and releases his own mutations into the culture.

We should all think seriously about how to do the same.


Science says that people who curse a lot have better vocabularies

Is that because sweary people engage with language differently?

The ability to generate curse words was not an index of overall language poverty – in fact, they found that taboo fluency is positively correlated with other measures of verbal fluency.


1. From the Latin condōnāre. To remit a debt. From com-(intensive) + dōnāre to donate.
2. To disregard or overlook (something illegal, objectionable, or the like).
3. To give tacit approval to. By his silence. He seemed to condone their behaviour.
4. To pardon or forgive (an offense). Excuse.


Working on Carrion. I have been thinking about the war on drugs as a tyranny.

1. From Old French tyrannie. From Medieval Latin tyrannia. From Latin tyrannus.
2. Arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power. Despotic abuse of authority.
3. The government or rule of a tyrant or absolute ruler.
4. A state ruled by a tyrant or absolute ruler.
5. Oppressive or unjustly severe government on the part of any ruler.
6. Undue severity or harshness.

It seems to me the war on drugs is an “arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power” exhibiting an “undue severity or harshness”.


I want to label Adam Leigh as reactionary. I’m not sure the label fits. But was interested by the words meaning and etymology.

1. Based on the model of French réactionnaire. Circa 1840. From réaction.
2. Of. Relating to. Or characterized by reaction. Especially against radical political or social change.
3. A person opposed to radical change.
1. From re- “again, anew” +action. Modeled on French réaction. Older Italian reattione. From Medieval Latin reactionem.
2. A reverse movement or tendency.
3. An action in a reverse direction or manner.

I have to admit. When I first heard the word reactionary. I had it in my head that it meant the exact opposite. I am not the only one. I have come across several people since who have made the same mistake.

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