URL-y to Bed
Speaking in tongues of technology leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Blog, for example: a perfect pig of a word that calls for an ugh as in ughly. And then there are the acronyms, clicked off as if they were real words: URLs, ISPs, RADs and VOIPS. How about retweet and twaffic? Are you getting that queasy sensation yet? I’ve been to the webinar and found it wanting. So do the teleconference hosts, apparently, for sometimes they give in to a nostalgic urge to let drop a word or phrase referring to the ordinary world of tree and sky.
I attended an Email Newsletter Optimization seminar where the presenter—a large, overly-enthusiastic woman with long, graying hair—used the phrase “low-hanging fruit” and my heart leapt up—but only for a nanosecond, for sadly, I discovered she was using it to refer to the most accessible features on her pixelated page. Set as it was among non-words in a conversation about SEOs and change-tracking functionality, the fruit was about as tasty as the dollhouse ham in Beatrix Potter’s Tale of Two Bad Mice. No thank you. I’ll take my fruit from a poem like Keats’ “Eve of St. Agnes”:
And still she slept an azure-lidded sleep,
In blanched linen, smooth, and lavender’d,
While he from forth the closet brought a heap
Of candied apple, quince, and plum, and gourd,
With jellies soother than the creamy curd,
And lucent syrups, tinct with cinnamon;
Manna and dates, in argosy transferr’d
From Fez; and spiced dainties, every one,
From silken Samarcand to cedar’d Lebanon.
For at least the fruit in a poem refers to that which exists in the tangible world—to orbs of sweet, fleshy succulence—while the words of cyberspace refer to—what? Bytes, bounces, ASCIs, hypertext, nodes, MIMES, and jpegs—all virtual, of course, meaning “not physically existing but made to appear by software.” Letters without words, words without souls, geek talk being mainstreamed, and ultimately the incarnational nature of language being reduced to the gibberish of gifs and G-zips. Such a bloodless lexicon is not to be confused with the colorful slang of truck drivers alerting their buddies of” bears in the air” and “disco lights,” nor with lunch counter waiters calling out orders to the cooks of “bloodhounds in the hay” and “cowboys with spurs.” No, the language of the machine has no root beyond itself, and indeed, no root at all, needing not even a wire anymore to connect us to our absence.
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