Point is, what’s so wonderful is that every one of these flowers has a specific relationship with the insect that pollinates it. There’s a certain orchid that looks exactly like a certain insect so the insect is drawn to this flower, its double, its soul mate, and wants nothing more than to make love to it. And after the insect flies off, spots another soul-mate flower and makes love to it, thus pollinating it. And neither the flower nor the insect will ever understand the significance of their lovemaking. I mean, how could they know that because of their little dance the world lives? But it does. By simply doing what they’re designed to do, something large and magnificent happens. In this sense they show us how to live – how the only barometer you have is your heart. How, when you spot your flower, you can’t let anything get in your way.
Ayer estuve leyendo “Authority and American Usage”, un ensayo del novelista David Foster Wallace sobre los usos políticos y las distintas interpretaciones de lo que en el mundo angloparlante se conoce como Standard Written English, una especie de modelo correcto del inglés (el cual en sí es bastante nebuloso y difícil de definir pues no tienen el equivalente de la RAE para guiarlo). Aunque suena a que podría ser el artículo más aburrido del mundo (y largo, 62 páginas) este es en realidad una loca exploración de la fascinación por el lenguaje y de la forma en la que el lenguage refleja las reglas invisibles de nuestras relaciones con los demás. El extracto a continuación habla del impacto del lenguaje en las relaciones escolares. “Authority and American Usage” apareció en la revista Harper’s y fué republicado en “Consider the Lobster”.
A Dialect on English is learned and used either because it’s your native vernacular or because it’s the dialect of a Group by which you wish (with some degree of plausibility) to be accepted. And although it is a major and vitally important one, SWE [Standard Written English] is only one dialect. And it is never anybody’s only dialect. This is because there are – as you and I both know and yet no one [in an argument about proper usage] ever seems to mention – situations in which faultlessly correct SWE is not the appropriate dialect.
Childhood is full of such situations. This is one reason why SNOOTlets tend to have such a hard social time of it in school. A SNOOTlet is a little kid who’s wildly, precociously fluent in SWE. Just about every class has a SNOOTlet, so I know you’ve seen them – these are the sorts of six-to-twelve-year-olds who use whom correctly and whose response to striking out in T-ball is to shout “How incalculably dreadful!” The elementary-school SNOOTlet is one of the earliest identifiable species of academic geekoid and is duly despised by his peers and praised by his teachers. These teachers usually don’t see the incredible amounts of punishment the SNOOTlet is recieving from his classmates, or if they do see it they blame the classmates and shake their heads sadly at the vicious and arbitrary cruelty of which children are capable.
Teachers who do this are dumb. The truth is that his peers’ punishment of the SNOOTlet is not arbitrary at all. There are important things at stake. Little kids in school are learning about Group-inclusion and -exclusion and about the respective rewards and penalties of same and about the use of dialect and syntax and slang as signals of affinity and inclusion. They’re learning about Discourse Communities. Little kids learn this stuff not in Language Arts or Social Studies but on the playground and the bus and at lunch. When his peers are ostracizing the SNOOTlet or giving him monstrous quadruple Wedgies or holding him down and taking turns spitting on him, there’s serious learning going on. Everybody here is learning except the little SNOOT – in fact, what the SNOOTlet is being punished for is precisely his failure to learn. And his Language Arts teacher – whose own Elementary Education training prizes “linguistic facility” as one of the “social skills” that ensure children’s “developmentally appropriate peer rapport,” but who does not or cannot consider the possibility that linguistic facility might involve more than lapidary SWE – is unable to see that her beloved SNOOTLet is actually deficient in Language Arts. He has only one dialect. He cannot alter his vocabulary, usage, or grammer, cannot use slang or vulgarity; and it’s these abilities that are really required for being accepted by the second-most-important Group in the little kid’s life. If he is sufficiently clueless, it may take years and unbelievable amounts of punishment before the SNOOTlet learns that you need more than one dialect to get along in school.
This [author] acknowledges that there seems to be some, umm, personal stuff getting dredged up and worked out here; but the stuff is germane. The point is that the little A+ SNOOTlet is actually in the same dialectal position as the class’s “slow” kid who can’t learn to stop using ain’t or bringed. Exactly the same position. One is punished in class, the other on the playground, but both are deficient in the same linguistic skill – viz., the ability to move between various dialects and levels of “correctness,” the ability to communicate one way with peers and another way with teachers and another way with family and another with T-ball coaches and so on. Most of these dialectical adjustments are made below the level of conscious awareness, and our ability to make them seems part psychological and part something else – perhaps something hard-wired into the same motherboard as Universal Grammer – and in truth this ability is a much better indicator of a kid’s raw “verbal IQ” than test scores or grades, since US English classes do far more to retard dialectical talent than to cultivate it.
the above quote is about language and not about codes of dress, and it’s about elementary-schoolers and not high-schoolers, but it seemed incredibly relevant and i hopefully it’s pretty easy to see why.
The Kid: So, as just a guy who gave another guy a sandwich, you have any philosophical tips or anything, for a guy on a-kind of- road trip?
Don Johnston: You asking me?
The Kid: Yeah.
Don Johnston: Well, the past is gone, I know that. The future isn’t here yet, whatever it’s going to be. So, all there is, is this. The present. That’s it.