giovedì 3 marzo 2011

Virtual Words

Qubit, crowdsourcing, in vitro meat, microbiome, steampunk, panglish
In Virtual Words: Language on the Edge of Science and Technology (Oxford University Press, 2010), Jonathon Keats, author of Wired Magazine’s monthly Jargon Watch column, investigates how, in his own words, “the language of technology and science illuminates the science and technology of language.”

From the book description: “In 28 short essays, Keats examines how such words get coined, what relationship they have to their subject matter, and why some, like blog, succeed while others, like flog, fail. Divided into broad categories--such as commentary, promotion, and slang, in addition to scientific and technological neologisms--each essay considers one exemplary word, its definition, origin, context, and significance. Together these words provide not only a survey of technological invention and its consequences, but also a fascinating glimpse of novel language as it comes into being.”

From the New Scientist review: “Keats's survey of the ways in which science and technology shape language is clever and humorous, but he also has a deeper point to make: there is, he says, ‘a remarkable symbiosis between scientific and lexical innovation, a potent co-evolution.’"

And here’s an excerpt, the essay on the word Exopolitics (Foreign affairs with alien races):
"At the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, an archivist named Herb Pankratz specializes in queries about the thirty-fourth president's exopolitics. Pankratz assumed this responsibility because of his expertise in transportation. Since exopolitics involves diplomacy with visitors from other planets, his colleagues deemed him the best qualified person on staff to field questions, of which there are many, since Ike is alleged to be the first president to have negotiated directly with aliens. 
Neither Pankratz nor anyone else at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library is able to confirm these historic events. They tell researchers that the president's presumed first meeting with extraterrestrials, on the evening of February 20, 1954, was in fact a dental appointment. They inform people that Eisenhower's emergency departure from the Smoking Tree Ranch, where he was vacationing, was on account of a chipped porcelain cap on his upper right incisor, broken when he bit down on a chicken bone, not a secret meeting at Edwards Air Force Base with aliens requesting that he end America's nuclear weapons program in order to protect the space-time continuum. The archivists have no record of the words with which Ike rebuffed his celestial guests without causing an intergalactic diplomatic rift, nor of the accord he allegedly reached with a different alien race later that year, allowing them to borrow cows and humans for purposes of medical examination, provided that they return the specimens unharmed."

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