Tag Archive for language comprehension

Word Magic, narrated by Mariah Avix of 600 Second Saga

cool word

Word Magic is a short story prequel to a larger piece of fiction I’m working on about language and its power to shape the world. I love Mariah’s work — she brings magic to my stories and to those of other writers. Please visit her site and subscribe to her work. In the meantime, enjoy this story and follow along with the text below. Word Magic “But I hate that name!” The boy tried to squirrel away from his teacher. “I didn’t ask for your opinion before assigning it to you, Acolyte Will. Names are bestowed based on a quality of need, not emotional preference.” “But you said the best words fire up emotion–” “Your name will do so… in time. Now, you have to get back to work. How many words have you discovered today, Acolyte Will?” The boy stopped squirming and settled down. He looked excited to share his lexical discoveries; it must have been a productive morning. Seeing the boy’s enthusiasm, the teacher settled down next to him. The boy had real word magic talent. It was true that he was lazy and unpredictable with it yet, but he was only a few years old still. In…

There’s a word for that?

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Tower of Babel

A Dictionary of Cool Words That Hide True Feelings & Meanings from Parents Many of the strange vocabulary words, that Jude and her friends, from my new novel The Far Side, use, arise from their need to create a sense of linguistic privacy from the grownups. These are real and come from hard-to-translate words from other languages, professions, or sub-cultures. Age-otori — a feeling that you look worse after the haircut. (Based on a Japanese word.) Ataraxia — a sense of stoic calm. (Based on an ancient Greek word.) Backpfeifengesicht — a face in need of a fist. (Based on a German word.) Chingada — a hellish place where all that annoy you go. (Based on a Spanish word.) Desenrascanço — to find a creative way out of a bad situation. (Based on a Portuguese word.) Dépaysement — the sense of displacement one feels when visiting a foreign country and being far from home. (Based on a French word.) Doppelgänger — a duplicate of a person. (Based on a German word.) Dustsceawung — the contemplation of the idea that everything turns to dust eventually. (Based on an Old English word.) Eudaimonia — deep fulfillment and the resulting happiness, even as…

The Language Comprehension Continuum

Below is an example of communication error — Penn and Teller use strong emotional language and delivery to hide the true meaning of the message. In context — a pretty young woman anxiously and passionately asking individuals at a faire to protect the environment — signing the petition makes sense. People sign many petitions. And the more people sign (or the more signatures they see on the petition), the more likely others sign as well. A woman, seemingly in distress over an environmental problem, inspires an emotional reaction — people want to help. We have a built-in social value system that encourages this kind of behavior. And finally there’s a strong p-prim that all chemicals are bad — so just hearing a chemical compound in a petition gets a response from the crowd. The result? On the language comprehension continuum, these faire goers didn’t do so well…