Wednesday, January 7, 2009

BYOW


God said, "It's not good for the Man to be alone; I'll make him a helper, a companion." So God formed from the dirt of the ground all the animals of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the Man to see what he would name them. Whatever the Man called each living creature, that was its name. The Man named the cattle, named the birds of the air, named the wild animals; but he didn't find a suitable companion.

God put the Man into a deep sleep. As he slept he removed one of his ribs and replaced it with flesh. God then used the rib that he had taken from the Man to make Woman and presented her to the Man.

The Man said,
    "Finally! Bone of my bone,
      flesh of my flesh!
    Name her 'Woman'
      for she was made from Man."

—Genesis 2, The Message


At one time, the whole Earth spoke the same language. It so happened that as they moved out of the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled down. They said to one another, "Come, let's make bricks and fire them well." They used brick for stone and tar for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let's build ourselves a city and a tower that reaches Heaven. Let's make ourselves famous so we won't be scattered here and there across the Earth."

God came down to look over the city and the tower those people had built. God took one look and said, "One people, one language; why, this is only a first step. No telling what they'll come up with next—they'll stop at nothing! Come, we'll go down and garble their speech so they won't understand each other." Then God scattered them from there all over the world. And they had to quit building the city. That's how it came to be called Babel, because there God turned their language into "babble." From there God scattered them all over the world.

— Genesis 11 (The Message)

We are a nation of babblers: We are constantly creating new words, and the BYOW (Bring/Build Your Own Word) dictionaries, like God, merely invite babbler-wannabes. I get a new word in my email from Urban Dictionary every day.

Yesterday I wanted to comment on a Philosophers' Playground post about humans going to Mars before the Sputnik Centennial, and wanted to talk about how talkative human-like robots would be the ones to go, and wanted to name them "hubots" (i.e., not "cyborgs" — after all, that's demeaning). I found "hubot" in Merriam-Webster BYOD (Build Your Own Dictiionary). It wasn't in UD, or used very much online that I could see via Google. It seems like a good word to me, even though I didn't "invent" it.

The Man (of the creation tale in the above quote) named the things on earth that belonged to him. Today's Man names his "avatars" (fr. Sanskrit avatra, descent (of a deity from heaven); avatar : ava, down + tarati, he crosses—The American Heritage Dictionary).

What's the point to this Andy-Rooneyesque rant? Beats me.


Our language is a shifting sand
where waves of words change shore and land.




(Oh yeah. MoDo, my poetcumcolumnist diva, ... is back.)