April 25, 2010

"the future of the French language is now in Africa"

French is now spoken mostly by people who aren’t French. More than 50 percent of them are African. French speakers are more likely to be Haitians and Canadians, Algerians and Senegalese, immigrants from Africa and Southeast Asia and the Caribbean who have settled in France, bringing their native cultures with them.
How to interpret these facts? Some think that the rescue of French is called for (think: eliminating words borrowed from English, like "weekend"), others point out that the language is thriving like never before, reflecting the reality of diversity and globalization.

This is how Nancy Huston, a Canadian-born novelist here, puts it:
The world has changed....The French literary establishment, which still thinks of itself as more important than it is, complains about the decline of its prestige but treats francophone literature as second class, [while] ... laying claim to the likes of Kundera, Beckett and Ionesco, who were all born outside France. That is because, like Makine, they made the necessary declaration of love for France. But if the French bothered actually to read what came out of Martinique or North Africa, they would see that their language is in fact not suffering.

April 21, 2010

Compounded, clipped, and blended: The Smoke Monster in LOST


We used to know him as "Smoke Monster," or "Smokey." When Smokey gets furious, he/it turns into a force of destruction, killing everything in its way (such as the crew of the Black Rock). Unless it's hidden behind a sonar fence or inside a tree. Or unless one is John Locke, who survived an encounter with Smokey in Season 1.


Then Smokey became "Man in Black" or "MIB" (because he's always dressed in black) or even "Esau" (because he's playing opposite of "Jacob," who may or may not be his brother), or rather, it became obvious that Man in Black was a shape-shifter and could turn himself into the Smoke Monster. We learned that Man in Black wants to get off the Island, but this won't happen as long as Jacob is around. MIB cannot kill Jacob himself, so he must find someone else to do it. (That someone else turned out to be good old Benjamin Linus.)


For some reason, Man in Black took on the persona of John Locke (he previously also took on the persona of dead people, for example Christian Shepherd, but this time, he is "locked" into it. Ah, the irony!), to whom he refers as "a sucker" and "loser." Thist added a level of complexity to the question of how people should refer to the new John Locke on the show. He looked just like the old John Lock, but he was someone entirely different. Mostly, fan websites chose blended forms to indicate the double identity: Some call him "Smockey" or "Smocke" (Smokey + Locke), others refer to him as Faucke (faux/fake Locke), others use "Un-Locke."

There's bound to be an episode that gives us the back story on Jacob and Man in Black. Let's see which effect it will have on our naming the latter. Will we ever know his name?

April 02, 2010

“They call it light bladder leakage, but I call it the spritz"

Commercials for feminine hygiene products are known for their abundant use of euphemisms, such as "feminine hygiene" (and of blue liquids). Brands like Poise and are now trying to change this, but how far can you go? Poise itself avoids the term "incontinence" and has coined the term “light bladder leakage" instead (what about "bladder dysfunction"?).
“Women want clarity in their communication and for us to be open and honest,” Ms. Jones said. “But they also want to identify with a term that doesn’t make them feel like they’re incontinent, a term that is attached to their fear of aging. That’s why we felt it was important to position this category out of incontinence and relabel it light bladder leakage.”
While Poise is only poised to go as far as "light bladder leakage," it picked a spokesperson who is not known for discreet language: Whoopi Goldberg.
The first day of shooting, we said the brand talks about light bladder leakage, and she said, ‘It’s not a leak, it’s a spritz. I talked to my mom the other night and she said it’s a spritz. We both think it’s a spritz.’ The spritz language is all Whoopi.
Meanwhile, Tena, a competitor, refers vaguely to "bladder protection" and has created a silly advertisement, in which Tena pads are likened to fashion accessories:
In a current commercial for Tena, by Zig, Toronto, part of MDC Partners, an actress in Victorian garb steps out a bedroom as she pulls off her powdered wig and dress, revealing her own hair in a bun and slightly more modern ball gown. As she walks through the house, she keeps pulling off outfits to reveal more modern ones, from a flapper style dress to a poodle skirt until she finally is wearing a contemporary satin dress. As the camera zooms to her abdomen, which shows no outline of any product, screen text declares, “Fashion has evolved. Shouldn’t bladder protection?” A voiceover says Tena represents “the evolution of bladder protection.”
The same problem -- overuse of euphemisms -- also occurs in commercials for menstrual products, which usually involve pictures of serene women dressed in white clothes on white horses or beaches.
“Fem-care advertising is so sterilized and so removed from what a period is,” said Elissa Stein, co-author (with Susan Kim) of the book “Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation.” “You never see a bathroom, you never see a woman using a product. They never show someone having cramps or her face breaking out or tearful — it’s always happy, playful, sporty women.”
The brand Kotex is now trying to change this and to introduce more direct language in its "U by Kotex" commercials (a line that caters to young women). However, it turned out that the networks weren't quite ready to go there. According to an article in the NYT, the word "vagina" was not considered acceptable, nor was the euphemism "down there." Perhaps they should turn to Ms. Goldberg for inspiration.

April 01, 2010