Sunday, September 25, 2005

Kenneth Burke: "Word Man"

Reading Kenneth Burke makes for a delightfully demanding semester even while I find myself wondering if any next day I'll catch the "break" I need from course demands to throw a few thoughts in the direction of friends tracking with me at Body Electric. Well, here's my opportunity.

It happens that Burke called himself a "word man," an idea anchored both in his regard for the formative force of words as well as in the grounding the notion provides for his principle theories in philosophy and rhetoric. It happens, too, that one of the standing "suggestions" for guiding my first-year composition students in their own posting is to report/discuss/pass along words they discover new to them in their assigned course reading. Connect these two ideas, and I can create an opportunity to tell you about a couple of "wowser" words I've come across from the "Word-Man," himself:

From Permanence and Change: An Anatomy of Purpose (UC Press, 1984)

1. psittacistic (91) ... and it's spelled correctly. Any guesses? Anyone know before I tell you? From Luciferous Logolepsy, a site operating under the byline "dragging obscure words into the light of day," the word means "speaking in a mechanical, repetitive way."

2. eidetic (214) ... a new-to-me word that I suspect many of you will have "met and gotten to know" before I found it in today's reading, though it is such a rich word that I'm including it here. From, the word means "of, relating to, or marked by extraordinarily detailed and vivid recall of visual images" - a word with a perfect fit for a visually oriented 21st century.

There are another half-dozen Burke books to read before I finish this semester, so think of these words as an appetizer. I'm guessing I'll be back with more.

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Junebugg said...

"psittacistic", glad I never had that in a spelling bee!! I love words BUT lots of the time I see them in print, look them up and then wind up having no idea how to pronounce them!!

Sentinel 47 said...

I love this Burke post!

It has been personally liberating to me to publicly claim my word discoveries as I go bumbling along. Every time I hesitate out of sheer anxiety, I end up proving to myself after the fact that at least one other person I know (and usually respect) shared the same knowledge gap with me.

Thanks for sharing yours. There's no way I can compete **winks**, but I love sharing the journey just a step or two behind!

Awaiting Deployment said...

I would recommend reading Burke with a cigarette in one hand and a stiff drink in the other! :-) After some study of Burke myself, it's much easier to take his words this way. I've known many people who knew the man and they say he was generally intoxicated and that's the best way to read his work! :-) I've listened to many interviews with him as well and he sounded much the same way! Hope you enjoy him, he's a heckuva read!