Archive for the ‘Media and Meaning’ Category

Why is Milk Called Milk?

May 18, 2010

To be honest I found this reading to be one of the most interesting to date. It reminds me of all those times when you are having a conversation, and a word gets repeated one too many times, and then everyone stops to think about how unusual the word really is. For example, the other week my roommates and I were talking about milk. A normal, everyday, product somehow became the center of our discussion when we discussed the proper pronunciation which then led to the “what a weird word, I wonder where it came from” comment.

In both the Schirato and Yell article, Communication and Cultural Literacy: An Introduction and the Clark article, The Linguistics of Blame, I found the notion of violence in relation to language to be extremely interesting. Schirato and Yell’s argument that words can adapt new meanings based on context is something I had never really given much thought to before, but it is so true.  Changing the tone or context of a word allows the speaker to convey many different messages. The Simpson example is so prevalent to our media and use of words today- what is violence? Our definitions differ greatly depending on each person. It is also rather intimidating that these words can be portrayed to be much worse (or more mild) depending on the speaker. For example, the “violence” of the British against the aboriginal people was down played to simply helping out the “savages.” Although to many people this would appear to be a highly inaccurate description of the events that occurred, to those who had no prior knowledge of the events this may be accepted as fact.

The Yell article also brings up some interesting points about how we can use words to convey messages in many different ways. The example given of naming an attacker in either a sub-human way (beast, monster, ripper, etc) or allowing the attacker basic human acknowledgement (name, address) was rather interesting. The media has a great tendency to use words to make stories gripping, terrifying, and intriguing. Since we wrote our first fairy tale we have been programmed to use descriptive words to make stories more interesting, and that  is obviously what the media does, yet have they taken it too far in some instances.

Finally, it seems that in these instances the words are doing more damage than good. I know if I read the story of a “monster prowling the streets” I would be terrified to take out my trash. Similarly, if I read about how the British came to Australia to help the savages I may be viewed as naïve and ignorant in the ways to the world. Yet how can I help but believe some of these stories- they are rather compelling right? In all it is rather intimidating to think about the grip words and language has over us, and it all comes from some dairy farmer naming milk milk.

I leave you with this video, at first you think the mother and daughter are having a typical fight over cell phones- listen closely to the words though and you will be surprised!