Words are something we cherish here at Dawn of the Unread. We love their magical quality and the way each pattern of letters conjures up a distinctly unique image in the mind of each reader. Sometimes the absence of words can be equally powerful. John Harvey is a master of this in his Resnick novels, giving us just enough information about his jazz-loving detective that each reader has a completely different impression of what he looks like, while being completely clear about who he is as a person.
Stephen Fry eloquently describes language as “the breath of God, the dew on a fresh apple, it’s the soft rain of dust that falls into a shaft of morning sun when you pull from an old bookshelf a forgotten volume of erotic diaries; language is the faint scent of urine on a pair of boxer shorts, it’s a half-remembered childhood birthday party, a creak on the stair, a spluttering match held to a frosted pane, the warm wet, trusting touch of a leaking nappy.” That’s far more evocative than anything penned by semiotician Ferdinand de Saussure.
We’ve explored lots of different approaches to language through our comics with the hope that there’s something for each type of reader. At its most technical we’ve seen the Iambic Pentameter in Andy Croft’s Booked. At the other end of the spectrum is the bawdy gobbiness of Al Needham’s Bendigo versus Nottingham, whose rawness is brought to life by Rikki Marr’s rough sketches.
Fonts have also offered a different means to experience language. Eddie Campbell’s hand-written text in Charlie Peace: Museum of Crime and Punishment perfectly complements his black and white line drawings, while evoking something personal. But we’ve also had to consider that Dawn of the Unread is being accessed on devices and so there needs to be a certain weight to letters in order for them to be legible on screens.
Words are a means of quantifying our existence, of giving expression to that which is innate. So it also follows that words give an indication into our cultural values. Just as the Inuit have lots of different words for snow because snow has such an impact on their everyday lives, so too we can learn something about who we are by the top ten trending words of 2014; if, of course, you accept that popularity is a valid means of evaluating culture and my source (the Dictionary App on my phone) is trustworthy.
‘Caliphate’ and ‘Ebola’ elude to global issues, with the former climbing 13,000 places after the emergence of ISIS. ‘Maleficent’ trended because of a Disney film starring Angelina Jolie and ‘Elementary’ because of the Sherlock TV series of the same name staring Jonny Lee Miller. ‘Sociopath’ could also be linked to the popularity of films such as Gone Girl and the TV serial Hannibal, although the constant stream of television personalities being prosecuted for rape and abuse may have helped trigger this fascination.
‘Misogynistic’ made it into the Top Ten and we’re pretty spoilt for examples of why this has become so topical, least of all the horrendous abuse of feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez for daring to suggest Jane Austen should appear on a bank note. But any progress made here was quickly offset by the inclusion of ‘Tinder’ – the name of a dating App – a timely reminder that casual sex is as important as ever. So there you have it. We are influenced by American TV; fear some kind of apocalypse; are aware of sexism but crave sex even more.
In the words of T.S Eliot’s Four Quartets: “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language/
And next year’s words await another voice.”
- Jane Austen Banknote (bankofengland.co.uk)
- Don’t Mind Your Language (stephenfry.com)
- 11 Trending Words of 2014 (blog.dictionary.com)
- Why ‘Exposure’ is Our Word of the Year (bloglovin.com)
- Trending Topics (hackerfactor.com)
- Finifugal (wordfoolery.wordpress.com)
- Oculus (sesquiotic.wordpress.com)
- Most Popular Word of 2014 is the Heart Emoji (Daily Mail)