Saturday, May 6, 2006

The great leveller

Register is a variety of language that is determined by its use. For example, the register of cooking would have words like broil, garnish or whip and the register of cricket would mean items like forward short leg or wide ball. Often technical words from registers spill over into everyday language and are used so frequently that the boundaries get blurred.

Looking around, one sees so many terms that were once considered jargon, words like overhead transmission or download that were earlier restricted to the technical field, becoming a part of non-technical communication effortlessly. This development in lexis is a potent comment on today’s era and the major role played by technology in it. In fact, neologisms prove that recently marketed gizmos are becoming an intrusion. Earlier, if one could dexterously use electronic devices, one was tech-savvy. Today, the people who talk on the mobile phone in meetings or use the ipod while watching a movie are likely to be labelled techno pests! The recent coinage of techiquette or tech-etiquette takes up where netiquette left off, demonstrating that too much of a good thing can be bad.

Not only does language mix registers and widen horizons, it also breaks down borders between disciplines. It acts as an agent of equality, levelling everything. For years now, it has been held that the linguistic ability and the mathematical ability develop in completely different parts of the human brain. So much so that career counsellors advise students on this basis.

The creation of the ‘fib’ proves them incorrect. The fib is based on the mathematical progression known as the Fibonacci sequence and Dan Brown used it in his bestseller The Da Vinci Code. This system dictates the number of syllables to be used in each line. The number of syllables in each line must equal the sum of the syllables in the previous two lines. This kind of writing has united mathematics and creative writing, as demonstrated through this fib written by Judith Roitman, a poet and math professor:



No doubt

Will not find

It interesting

To talk to me about this stuff.