So then I said – what was I saying?

Discourse acts in many ways as a social marker. By adopting (or not adopting) certain words, turns of phrase or other distinct linguistic behaviors, a writer can create a persona suitable to whatever situation zhe might stumble into. Take, for instance, these wordings:

These words embody a rich tradition of stories, myths and legends. To fully comprehend them, we must take into account the complex context in which we find them, and negotiate the contradictions found in the struggle to adapt to modern life. It is against the backdrop of this interlocked weave of traditions we must understand contemporary expressions such as this. Identity is not static – it is an ever changing dynamic formed by the constant struggle for recognition, compromise and respectability inherent in the very act of being social in a multicultural world.

As you might imagine, such wordings signal a strong “HELLO FELLOW HUMANITIES SCHOLARS” to those who identify themselves as such. To others, it does not. To yet another other, it signals, but fails to garner the desired response, as they do not identify with the group. And so on.

Let’s look at more words:

The logos of any given piece of text is usually secondary with regards to its ethos. The persuasiveness follows not from the argument that is being made, but rather from the implied personage that must be understood in order to grasp the text. Both the persona of the writer, and the second persona of the reader – the social setting and the shared doxa that inevitably must follow from the text being as it is. The text not only tells it like it is, it also tells it like we – writer and reader – are. Logos might be the focus of philosophers, but for the reader, ethos and pathos reigns supreme.

The rhetoricians among you will immediately feel at home in these words. Everyone else will probably wonder what the deal is with logotypes.

Let’s keep at it. More words:

The author function does not, as a matter of course, need an author. It functions autonomously, whether or not there is an actual someone behind the discourse. This is the root of fiction, and it is also the root of lying: it is the act of saying things as if there is someone saying them. Which there might or might not be. On the one hand, the author might author something that functions very well without further participation, perpetuated by the continued reading of others. On the other hand, it is possible to author a person into something zhe only becomes aware of ex post facto – such as when someone is informed that he or she is a certain gender.

Foucault would most likely object to being the subject. But the first three words signals all too clearly in which manner the other words are to be read, and thus they are. By those who can read such signs. The rest most likely tried to make some sort of sense out of this dysfunctional wordplay.

No reason to stop now. More words:

Grammar is prescriptive. Not in the sense of what you can and cannot say – grammar always finds a way to mean something, even if it is socially useless. No, it proscribes the limit of what metaphysics can be, and thus places an invisible filter over the world. Between you and what you can think – and, more importantly, express – there is language. While it does not make it impossible to express things, it does make it that much harder, and various workarounds have to be employed to describe certain features of the world. Poetry being the prime example, where the rules of grammar are broken in such a way that language cannot but produce the intended meaning. Seeing as we don’t speak in poetry in our everyday being, the things we tend to say form what is easy to think – and there we have the prescrivity.

The social markers are. They are in the world, dasein, for everyone to see. And to shake your metaphysical sticks at.

Now, for the last set of words:

Why can’t people just say things straight, by saying what they mean and meaning what they say?

Because words don’t say what you mean, and they definitely don’t mean what you think you say. Whoever you are. –


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