Notes on semantic deconversion
It’s difficult to study words, because words are hard to see. Words are tools used in communication, and when communication is working, they disappear into invisibility.
One way to see words is to make a word jail: a list of problematic words ripped out of their contexts, so that they may be seen for themselves instead of hiding behind meanings.
Another way to see words freshly, to experience them as broken and therefore present, is to enter a new domain with its own unfamiliar jargon. Military basic training, rock climbing, sailing (whether Melville-era or contemporary), and weaving all require that novices take on a new jargon in order to get a grip on a new domain. The jargon enables the initiates to pick out important aspects of the world (in their bodies, in the natural environment, in the technology). With new words, they learn to identify newly-salient aspects of reality and communicate with others about them. Continue reading “Words Fail”