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Voice and text

This category contains 18 posts

Beware of this message

Generals and soldiers must pass messages up and down the chain of command in secret to avoid interception by the enemy. The same applies to cities. Writing in the 1600s, the English natural philosopher (and proto-semiotician) John Wilkins (1614-1672) affirmed that “there are certain ways to discourse with a friend, though he were in a … Continue reading

The dissimulated city

As anyone who plays video games or works with digital media will tell you, a simulation of a city is a model or image of a city. A simulated city (as in SimCity™) is similar in some respects, but not the same as a brick and concrete city. Now consider the related word dissimulation. Something … Continue reading

Glitch demons

Tutivillus was the original glitch demon. He caused scribes to write the occasional wrong character in a manuscript. He would also collect a record of people’s sins, or would record the idle gossip of churchgoers. The word Tutivillus (or Titivillus) appears in the online OED, with its variant spellings. It seemed to originate from Latin, … Continue reading

Whispirators — In praise of whispers

The popularity of whisper videos (e.g. ASMR videos) demonstrates the longstanding fascination we humans have with the voice. Steven Connor has written extensively on the cultures of the voice. He says in his book Beyond Words: Sobs, Hums, Stutters and Other Vocalizations. “The whisper signifies intimacy and secrecy. It is the mode in which I … Continue reading

Dark whisperers

“Hush! Hush! Whisper who dares! …” I wrote about relaxation videos based on ASMR in the previous post — peculiar videos featuring whispers, combinations of phonemes in succession (t t t t), and non-oral substitutes: fingers tapping, fabric brushing, scraping, etc. At the right time and place such sounds can be relaxing and mesmerising for … Continue reading

The pleasures of the mouth

The soft human voice signifies comfort. Some would say that parental cooing and burbling sends babies to sleep. That affinity with the voice persists into later life. Thanks to telephones and mobile phones, the voice-in-your-ear is ubiquitous in contemporary life — compounding opportunities for the voice to do its work. The soft voice, breath, the … Continue reading

Africa calling: How to say a lot with a little

When we had cell phones it was called “beeping.” Now in the era of smartphones another word serves better. It’s “flashing” or “making a flash call.” I think we even did it with land lines as well back in the day. Children away from home would flash call their parents. Though we didn’t recognise it … Continue reading

This man has a sign

The semiotic philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce said enigmatically that “man is a sign” (54). I’ve referred to this in a previous post. This statement hints at something significant about the use of language. We humans are capable of profound transformation under the operations of the sign. But I find it easier to think in terms … Continue reading

A word in your ear: Podcasting for introverts

Who would deny that a whisper excites the senses. People are accustomed to music listening via headsets. The speaking voice at intimate proximity surpasses even musical affect. In any case, the voice is immediate, close, of the moment, embodied, and active. Sounds envelop, as if clouds, with the voice, or certain voices, breaking like a … Continue reading

Hustle, twitter, bells and banter

Free beer! C.S. Peirce and semioticians make much of the meaningful call out of someone like a street vendor. A cry or call out from someone giving away, selling or hustling goods at a market fits one of Peirce’s sign categories. To be precise, it is a kind of dicent indexical legisign. The sign is complete … Continue reading

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