Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A word and a blow

Pitch, tone, volume, facial expression and touch have a profound effect on the meanings of our words. They can work together to create completely new meanings. They change the context of the words and give them new connotations. Both men and women, as human beings, have mastered using these non-verbal tools in communication.
Pitch has a lot to do with the meaning of what we say. Have you ever noticed that that a man speaks deeper when he tries to be serious? Have ever noticed that women's voices jump up an octave when they answer a friend's phone call? Those are examples of how we change our pitch to communicate something. Men might also use a deeper voice to be poignant, scary or sexy. Woman seem to often use a higher voice to show their excitement or femininity.
Even more than pitch, tone can drastically alter the meaning of what we say. "Don't you use that tone of voice with me young lady!" is a phrase you may have often heard your mother or father say. The tone of voice can make the same words "he's a genius" mean different things. A sarcastic tone can imply the opposite; he is an moron. The tone of our voice can make us sound like we are being rude, disrespectful, accusatory or argumentative even though sometimes we do not mean to be. "That's not what I meant." or "It just came out that way." are common defenses when we believe our tone of voice, and therefore, the meaning of our words have been misunderstood.
Like tone, volume can also add a dynamic to the meaning of our speech. The same words if they are whispered might not have the same meaning if they are yelled, although they could so long as the same tone is employed. Whispering fire is not the same as yelling "FIRE!" not just because of the volume but because of the tone of urgency. More than effecting the meaning of the words by the volume we use, we often choose the volume to use based on the social situation. Volume can be used to conceal information from many as in the case of a whisper, or to project a message to many in the case of a shout.
Even more dynamic than our volume can be our facial expressions. Watch a stand-up comedian. Listen to the same routine on a cd. It's still funny, but you really miss out on a lot without the facial expressions. Facial expressions are a dramatic tool to effect meaning on the words; together with tone, pitch and volume, facial expression projects emotion. Simply saying "That's disgusting" is meaningful, but making a face portraying yourself in a state of inevitable vomiting multiplies the meaning.
Like the physical act of facial expressions, touch can add one more layer to the power of nonverbal cues. Saying "I love you" can take on different meanings if it is followed by a hug or by a kiss or by grabbing some booty. Touch brings the parties communicating together in the case of hugging but it can also push them apart if one "make[s] it a word and a blow" (Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet). Picture yourself in a crowded bar. You say "excuse me" as you try to navigate your way through but your shoulder makes a bit too much contact with someone, your "excuse me," however well intended, may take on a meaning of rudeness and lead to an unpleasant evening.
Men and women can employ all of these techniques, albeit in their own ways. Any major difference between the use of these non-verbal techniques most likely stems from cultural differences rather than differences between the sexes. As human beings we have all mastered the art of using pitch, tone, volume, facial expression and touch to communicate. We are masters of these nonverbal cues because for us, it is simply natural.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Well I have to sneak a non-English related post in here some where, so here it is!

Life is a bit tiring at the moment, I have had work one or two days every weekend for the past couple months. That's really great and I am very great full, just get a little worn out on the commute. Usually days when I work (like today) end up being almost two days in one! Very long. I am having a bit of trouble getting to sleep so I actually didn't hear my alarm this morning and had to go 80mph the whole time i was on the freeway to get to work on time, which is no bueno for gas mileage.

I did get to eat some bomb empanadas today though. My girlfriend's family had their annual St. Joseph celebration, which is basically a couple hours of praying and then TONS of food, today. I came once I got off work so I was very happy that my wonderful girlfriend saved me some empanadas, if you didn't hear: they're bomb. Not as awesome as the girlfriend that saved them for me though. Love that girl.

Schools been pretty much same as usual, I'm keeping up with stuff for the most part. Jumping back to the subject of jobs, I had an interview for the City of Palmdale Public Library last Tuesday (March 9th) so I'm just waiting to hear back whether or not I got the job!

Things with DragonCow and Rebel Filmmakers have been sorta slow, but we're picking up steam again:
1. found someone that's interested in filming/editing.
2. found someone to do website design and production photography
3. found someone interested in doing hair and makeup
4. found a few more people interested in Acting


5. Working on finding a good place to hold auditions
6. On tv again: Time Warner Cable Channel 3 at Mondays: at 6:30pm, Fridays at 11:30pm and Saturday 4:30pm

That's about all for now. Wish me luck!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dangerous But Necessary

Political correctness changes how we speak. We speak in a politically correct manner so as to not seem offensive. Generally it is about using a euphemism or inclusive term to describe someone or something. We generally want to avoid being offensive so we use certain terms in a public setting. An example of this is using the term African-American. While in the past, negro and colored were acceptable terms anyone using them today would be considered a racist or bigot.
There is an issue of trust involved in who decides what the best term is. I don’t know whether it is politically correct or not to say black, so I try to avoid it. I have to trust that the term african-american is preferred. However, the term is a few more syllables (7 vs. 1) so I often do say black. Also sometimes people don’t want to be referred to as african-american and prefer to just be called American. How an ethnic group wants to be identified is a completely subjective process.
Political correctness expands beyond determining the proper social etiquette for discussing ethnicity. It also governs the discussion of sexual orientation. Saying queer or faggot is not acceptable while gay is okay. But there also has to be even more specific categories such as lesbian, bisexual, transgender and more. The problem with political correctness is that it puts people into these specific groups instead of acknowledging everyone as simply humans or simply people.
Political correctness also effects the way we describe disabilities. Retarded is deemed offensive so the term “special” is used in. Also several seemingly absurd terms such as “visually impaired” for blind and “height challenged” for short arise. This is basically just jargon. Political correctness can at times make us more polite but at other times simply feel polite because we use a euphemism.
Another issue is that political correctness limits what we are supposed to talk about. If certain topics are off limits, how are we supposed to have open and honest discussions. Being politically correct mirrors the way that many politicians dance around an issue so that they won’t offend someone. Sometime we need to fight about things in this country so that we can get along.
Trusting political correctness is an issue because it is based on assumptions. It assumes people like to be labeled a certain way. It assumes that people are offended by certain things. It assumes that certain topics are not okay to talk about. It assumes that people are so sensitive that offending them must be avoided at all cost. But the biggest danger of political correctness is the assumption that a political position is correct and that an issue is already settled, such as assumptions about the character of the military, the validity of war, the reality of global warming and the need for big government. It is dangerous to challenge what is politically correct. It is dangerous to question the status quo. Dangerous but necessary.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lingua Franca (I saw Tobey Maguire today!)

I am sitting in an orthodontist’s waiting room in L.A. I guess the same guy that works on my girlfriend’s teeth also caters to the stars because Tobey Maguire just walked in. I’d get a picture, but I’d rather not be rude like a paparazzi and interrupt his day so I’ll just post a pic of him off google images (he didn’t have his kid with him, just his personal assistant, though oddly enough he was holding a bottle just like that). Anyways, onto writing my english assignment right? Maybe I should ask Tobey what he thinks of English as a lingua franca, or I could ask his personal assistant. Maybe not. Thanks to free wifi I have actually had the chance to do some research online and consult the experts.
I found an article titled “ English as a lingua franca” by Barbara Seidlhofer in the online Oxford Journals. The main focus of this article was about defining the term and the academic study of English as a lingua franca, referred to in short as ELF. She defines it as “communication in English between speakers with different first languages.” Now my internet connection is fading away, and Tobey Maguire just left.
Now that I’ve just gotten back home and been able to hop back onto the internet, I stumbled across something very interesting: “Globish!” “Globish is a simple pragmatic form of English codified by Jean-Paul Nerriere, a retired vice-president of IBM in the US. It involves a vocabulary limited to 1500 words, short sentences, basic syntax, an absence of idiomatic expressions and extensive hand gestures to get the point across” (Adam Sage, It was basically developed so that french business people could communicate at English business meanings easier. It has continued to grow and be taught to people of several other languages as an easier way to adapt to English as a lingua franca.
Thanks to the nature of the internet I decided to keep following more rabbit trails and discovered their are several languages that have been constructed as “international auxiliary languages.” All of them are attempts to make world communication easier. Then I sort of got back on track by researching Charles K. Ogden’s “Basic English.” The website ( describes it this way: “If one were to take the 25,000 word Oxford Pocket English Dictionary and take away the redundancies of our rich language and eliminate the words that can be made by putting together simpler words, we find that 90% of the concepts in that dictionary can be achieved with 850 words. The shortened list makes simpler the effort to learn spelling and pronunciation irregularities. The rules of usage are identical to full English so that the practitioner communicates in perfectly good, but simple, English.” Basic English was developed in 1930 and used as a tool to teach people in Asia to speak english.
The goal of a lingua franca is obviously an appealing concept to people and has been for a long time. I don’t doubt that people must want to be able to more easily communicate with people worldwide, especially in areas of business, medicine, science and technology. However people probably wish their language was already the lingua franca so they wouldn’t have to put extra effort into breaking the language barrier. That is probably why simplified versions of english such as Globish and Basic English have been developed.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine

Diction is everything. The words we choose make our writing unique. Cliches can make our writing dull. Metaphors make our writing poetic. Big words can make our writing difficult or pompous. The language we choose forms the audiences opinion of the message.
    Language is the vessel for our message. If we use words that are difficult to understand, the message will be difficult to understand. Our language has to be conducive to the message that we tell and the audience we hope to reach.
If I want to tell you a positive message I will have to use positive words. The writer’s children’s books employ children’s language. Without the appropriate words the message simply will not reach the audience.
Sometimes our word choices affect our readers without our knowledge. How does it happen? People react to different words in different ways because of their personal experiences. Words mean different things in the context of their lives. This is unintentional on the part of the writer and reader.
The most important influence our words have is the power of unlocking our imagination. If writing is going to be able to have an effect on us it has to create an environment inside of our mind first.
Consider a novel. To share a message, a novel must first tell a story. Before that it must construct a world in our imagination where that story can enfold. The details given will shape the world. Without enough details the world will be confusing to the mind. A world without details is formless, shapeless and empty. With too many details the message becomes to hard to pinpoint because the mind has exhausted itself trying to comprehend and visualize all of the details. If you describe every object in every room that a character enters your reader will lose sight of the plot.
The most powerful way that words can effect an audience is through the use of figurative language. Metaphors and similes are the most memorable uses of language because they convey not just a literal meaning but an emotional one. Metaphors are much more resonant than literal descriptions. In Fahrenheit 451 ray Bradbury describes a scene in which the main character Guy Montag steals a book that he is supposed to destroy, he first describes the book and its effect on Montag; “A book lit, almost obediently, like a white pigeon in his hands, wings fluttering. In the dim wavering light, a page hung open and it was like a snowy feather, the words delicately painted thereon. In all the rush fever, Montag had only an instant to read a line, but it blazed in his mind for the next minute as if stamped there with fiery steel.’Time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine’ He dropped the book.”(Bradbury 37). This use of metaphor, simile and personification creates a much more memorable image of a moment and helps the reader to understand the theme. We can affect our readers in the same way and make our message memorable.