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Jun 08, 2020

#guitarmonday: Stupid Effing Words edition

#guitarmonday: because words matter.

This song has been a #guitarmonday song before, but it's so effing good and I'm in a Fugazi kind of mood these days. Listen to it again.

I've been thinking about words a lot lately. I used to think that I was good at writing, but the more I become a visual communicator I find words to be inadequate. I also hang out with writers and marvel at their facility with words. I think a lot about how words can have hidden and coded meanings. Context matters. The assumptions we make change the meanings of words.  We think we're being clear, but we're not all coming from the same context and using words the same ways. I am frequently amazed we can get anything done at all, especially when we use the same words and mean completely different things by them. 

The internet is such a powerful tool that can amplify voices but also cause the volume of noise and misunderstanding to increase. We assume that everyone uses the internet and social media the way we do. Sometimes it seems like a gigantic, global game of Telephone is going on, with the messages warped and misunderstood and reinterpreted in the telling and passage.

You may not know that I went to school for a Masters in Library and Information Science (and finished that degree in 2012). I've been thinking about words and meaning and the internet since before then, although that degree process made me think differently about access and organization and cataloging (and I use that degree every damn day of my life, although I don't work as a librarian.)

A troubling observation about the internet is how prevalent and virulent misinformation can be. Attribution is stripped from quotes, quotes are shared out of context - losing their original meaning and context and gaining new meanings.

This weekend I was looking for the origin of a quote I've often heard: "Art should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable." A quick Google search led me to a post on Twitter with this quote attributed to Finley Peter Dunne.

A search for Finley Peter Dunne led me to this Wikipedia page (with reputable sources in footnotes) for him: Finley Peter Dunne. I learned that he was a late 19th/early 20th century Irish-American humorist/writer/journalist. Here's the original quote from 1902, where he's mocking the hypocrisy/self-importance of newspapers:

"Th newspaper does ivrything f'r us. It runs th' polis foorce an' th' banks, commands th' milishy, controls th' ligislachure, baptizes th' young, marries th' foolish, comforts th' afflicted, afflicts th' comfortable, buries th' dead an' roasts thim aftherward".

So this expression has been borrowed and altered over time. I haven't the time for a deep dive to truly trace when this expression was used in connection to art. But I've been thinking about this expression in connection with art, and of course, particularly my art.

This punk rock librarian entreats you to think carefully about the words you use. Spend the time to verify your news sources before you copy/past or share links. Explore the context of quotes that resonate with you. Consider the context/intent of memes. When you share the words of others, share with attribution and their original context. Use your own words more than sharing memes. Ask questions. For the love of whatever and all that is holy, ASK QUESTIONS.

The Faithless song "Mass Destruction" has always resonated with me. I shared it on the blog last week. I firmly believe the lyric from the song that states "Misinformation is a weapon of Mass Destruction". Just like racism. 

Check your words. Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com are excellent and free resources.


Be excellent to each other this week. Please. 

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