Sunday, October 29, 2006

Own Your Own Words

A thoughtful essay on the meaning of words from Steven Johnson who takes his starting point from Raymond Williams' book Keywords:
"But one immense change separates us from the semantic battles of the mid-70’s, a change visible in the term “key word” itself, which is now most commonly used to describe computerized search requests. In Williams’s time, if one was seeking the real-world associations or usage of a given term — to see a specific word in its native habitat, and not the caged environs of Roget’s Thesaurus or the Oxford English Dictionary — the options were limited. Today, however, we type our key word into Google and instantly get an entire field guide to its present usage: in op-ed columns, advertising blurbs, blog posts, MySpace pages, diaries, scholarly publications, wherever."
From the New York Times: