“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.” “The question is”, said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”
This little spectacle of the absurd from Lewis Caroll’s Alice in Wonderland , is perhaps the most demonstrative of the verbally ectropic times that we live in. Never before has the logocentric human civilisation(s) produced so many words, mutating, mixing and distorting languages and grammars, to produce words, so many, so nuanced, so familiar and yet distant, that they mean nothing. And if you were a Shakespearean, you would echo Lear’s declaration that ‘Nothing shall come of Nothing’. It is possible to take words by their collars and mug them, when nobody is looking – disfigure them, torment them, twist and turn them upside down, like victims of a schoolyard bully – till they lose all resemblance to themselves and turn purple in their faces. It is possible to string together innocuous words that make sense, as a unit, in themselves and yet fall apart when they talk to each other, all we have is a cacophonic babble of empty signifiers and unmoored meanings. The only way to navigate through the treacherous surfaces of these words and their worldlessness is to resort to producing dictionaries, thesauruses, glossaries, and when all else fails, new lexicons to accommodate for the thisness and thatness of the verbal big bang we are all a part of.