A conversation between Lucía Vidales, Alejandra Macías, Andrés González and Valentina Jager
A. Could I own a word?
B. Are we playing for me to own a word or do I think it is morally acceptable for someone to own one?
Do you mean the copyright? How in Just Do It?
D. But copyright is not owning a word itself. Every time I say Just Do It they do not charge me. Just Do It can be in another non-commercial context and not make reference to the brand. Hogwarts, no, for example.
A. But it is a proper name, as my name is mine.
My anger is mine.
C. They do not charge you for saying it, but you know what is theirs. You can not own it anymore. Or what do you mean by owning?
A. Owning a word can be in many ways; grammatically, linguistically or conceptually. Although linguists do not have words. They are a consensus, the words, I say.
B. We all own the word.
D. You mean that only one person owns a word, right?
C. For example, if I want to make my X products company at home and invent a word from nothing to name it, both the form and the meaning of the word would belong to me. That word becomes a trademark, a way to have words or phrases. Understanding that 'having' a word exists only in the economic sense, in which the word has a capital value to which we can take advantage.
B. I am thinking more like in ancient China, that the yellow color could only be used by the emperor.
A. Sure, but there you are referring to something else, the concept of yellow not the word itself. The emperor was possessing the essence of color, its symbol and its image.
B. Yes, but also in its written form, if someone had read yellow he would know that they refer to the emperor, because he is the only one who could use it. The trademark is an economic way to own, to which I refer is that there are other forms of ownership as well. I can think of Great Again, two words that are now Trump's, and not in an economic sense. Even if we do not want it that way, every time we say or hear that, we know that we are referring to Trump. The difficult thing would be to remove that property, either by attaching it to another meaning, repeating it in another context that becomes his, or perhaps better, forgetting it forever.
D. Concepts such as communism, impossible to disassociate from Marx. And proper names do not count, they are like trademarks.
Could we adopt a word to save it from extinction? Or a language?
D. There was a program in which you 'adopted' a word of low use and they proposed you to use it so that it would not be forgotten. I was sill as I remember, that where we put the pots outside the window. A. That program was to raise awareness, there was no economic exchange. You had to use the word adopted and that's it. Although if you used a word a lot would end up being a keyword of your personality.
D. There are many celebrities who use specific words.
B. It is a very common strategy in political campaigns, to appropriate a word. Like ya! Ya, ya, ya, and we all placed the song and the word as part of the Vicente Fox campaign. The peace symbol made with the fingers next to an a and that meant 'we are ready for the change'. The word was already that. Although it's been a long time since that and maybe it's only in the unconscious.
D. Peña Nieto has many, among his memes ...
This reminds me of something that happened today with my students. One said something or made a sound and the boy next to him answered 'I said that first, why do you say it?' As if whoever says something first was the linguistic and conceptual owner. Something that has happened to everyone in high school. With my friends we called Ponds, for example, the strawberries, referring to the cream ponds, according to us very elegant. And I remember having invented it, and it was just that, a sense of authority and ownership over that term, which obviously was also fought between my friends. We never really fought, but almost always we tried to make the narrative distort to favor the authorship of one or the other. And I think a large percentage of high school students have entered into that dynamic of who did or said something first. And I remember a lot of the words because, as I have always been very talkative, this has been the field in which I have most developed.
D. That more than a word is a joke. And jokes carry more individual intellectual property. That is closer to the authorship and not to the actual possession of the words.
A. Or 'take the word from someone', which means not talking to him anymore, not physically taking away his words. They are two different things, owning authorship and possessing the word.
B. How could you snatch the words from someone? Just killing them?
C. Of course, if you were the only one who can pronounce a word.
D. Yes, in a dictatorial situation where the word can not be said in public,
A. A censorship ...
D. something that nobody can say except for the president.
C. Before Luther, the Church did not let the Bible be read more than in Latin, thus promoting holiness, mystery and majesty in services. The sermons and the paintings were enough to indoctrinate the illiterate believers - who were the majority - and in any case, those educated believers, as well as the members of the church itself and the scientists, if they spoke Latin. Thus the priests had to accompany during the prayers the other believers serving as intermediaries. One of Luther's theses and the main reason for the translation of the Bible was precisely to eliminate the intermediaries between the believers and God, and the word of God. Previously, the only priests could communicate with God.
B. Nobody is interested in claiming Fergilicious for example. That's totally Fergie, nobody wants her, it's her. I would have to pay to take it off. That's bad. It's the only reason I can think of to get rid of a word.
A. That is achieved with branding, or an inverted branding.
C. Back to the religious sphere, there are more examples. How not to know the name of God in Judaism. Or in the story of Jacob, when he fights against an angel-after the whole saga with his brother Esau-until he defeats him to obtain his blessing. The angel asks his name and changes it to Israel, however we never know the name of the angel, because it is so important the name of the sacred that a mortal could not deal with it. The golem is that too, an inert mass that comes back to life upon receiving some of the names of God. Or Gilgamesh, who knowing the names of all the gods would be stronger than them.
D. In the Nahua culture of the Huasteca, women and married men should not have a name, or rather, they can not be called by name. They always have to be called by a lady, aunt or grandmother or lord. Calling them by their name is rude. Even for your partner you are a wife or simply hey.
A. Can you think of a concept that requires a new word in Spanish? Is there a word you would like to own?
B. Visito-phobia, as when you hate having visitors without advance notice.
C. I would like to have more words to describe sensations or subjective experience. Like when you go to the doctor and you have to explain how you feel. How difficult is that! Like when you have a pain and we make metaphors to describe if it stings or burns. And the physiological reactions to love. Butterflies in the stomach is so small to describe this feeling that it has no filler. It is an experience of the body that everyone has, but that being inside, it is more difficult to define.
B. I have never visualized that feeling. Oh yes, this is having butterflies in the stomach.
C. Yes, I had heard that phrase so much before I felt it that I could immediately name it when I had it.
A. Would it make sense to name something that is so subjective? Would not that eliminate the possibility of an individual sensation even if we had more tools to talk about it?
B. If we can schematize a sentiment in vibrations or transmitted electricity, then we could translate it into spoken language. Like measuring lies and being able to represent people pathologically. And those representations are general, nao individual, although the lie is subjective.
A. Now, but if the image 'butterflies in the stomach' did not exist, perhaps there would be more ways of representing love.
C. But people are totally dependent on that general vocabulary.
B. Language structures reality, not reality structures language. The way in which you state, remember and mention things is the way in which reality and thought are organized and that is why it is totally cultural.
C. If this concept were not there, another one would be created. But I do not feel that it restricts us from anything.
D. Or if there was no previous concept, we would not talk about that.
C. We would not even know about that. In the sixties the anthropologist Renato Rosaldo and his wife Michelle, also an anthropologist, went to live in the Philippines with the Ilongot society recognized above all for cutting heads. While studying the language of the tribe, he found a concept that was totally unknown to him. Liget is such a big sensation and with so many subtleties that the word anger does not quite describe it. A frustration, anger or violence for the death of someone you love. It's a feeling that makes you want to cut heads (laughs). A communal hysteria that is experienced screaming and howling like crazy. It's like that energy that you suddenly have and if you were given an ax, you would slice everyone by the neck or a tree even if you do not have to.
In short, the point is that this feeling is linked to hearing the name of someone who has died. And it happened that a friend of Rosaldo who was part of the tribe wanted to listen to the recordings that the anthropologist recorded as part of his investigation. And as he listened, he recognized the voice of one of his classmates who had already passed away. He shouted like crazy. Liget is what he felt.
Rosaldo was unable to understand what that emotion was, was not able to embody it, to feel it. I thought I knew what it was, but it was above all the suggestion of knowing how it feels and not feeling to know what it is. No, until many years after the death of Michelle - who had a tragic accident in a ravine. They say that Shelley, that's what he called him, had gone on a hike with a friend in the jungle but the friend returned alone to the house, after Shelley fell down the ravine to the river or I do not know where and was not found anymore. Rosaldo and her children -I'm not sure they have had children but this is to add more juice to this sad story- they returned to the United States and resumed their lives, until one day, while driving -seemingly alone- Rosaldo felt a overflowing energy that made him moan and writhe like an uncontrolled beast possessed by the liget. More or less the conclusion is that because he had the information on that concept is that he could locate it when it arrived and address it. It was a very specific cry. It started as a scream and for the knowledge that already had the direction towards a specific therapeutic ritual.
D. I am very surprised that there are no names for smells.
C. Also a very subjective experience.
D. As what we see, colors are very particular words. But for smells there is not so much specificity. Normally we talk about it in base or in comparison with something. It smells like something Or the perfumers who use the name of the chemists to describe the smells. They are the names of the components of the smells, but not the smells themselves.
B. Nobody smells calcium.
A. It is very subjective too.
C. The smell of bitter things for example is very pleasant compared to the taste of the bitter. Although both are bitter.
A. When you smell bitter chocolate, the smell is not bitter. Or like coffee.
C. Or the soap
A. There is a relationship between how many people know a word and its 'possession'. A word then so difficult to say would only be the property of those who can pronounce it. And in the aroused fact that we wanted to auction a word, the only way to do it would be not to mention it, not to tell anyone what it is they are bidding for. It should be a secret.
D. Exact. Here is a one word that nobody knows and only you will know.
A. Like the coat of the emperor. It would be to sell status, the content is indifferent.
D. Something that nobody else in the world will know, that does not communicate or is transmitted. But if there is a word that only a person knows, does the word exist? Does not it require a consensus to exist?
A. Good question
D. Because I can take any boruca, and name it and not tell anyone, but if only I know it, only I use it, only I do it, is that a word? Languages work by consensus. Something exists as soon as it is understood.
A. And it does not matter anything that is not correct, as long as it is used.
D. Unless it was a secret word that you and I are going to know.
A. A code
D. A code shared by a specific group. Then there was a kind of consensus and a kind of secrecy.
A. The word exists insofar as it is known by more than one.
D. They can not be one but always have to be of many, if not, they have no meaning.