Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Entry: samizdat (n.)

In context:  "And follow-up out of the Boston offices report possible indications of the victim's prior possible involvement with the widow of the auteur we both know was responsible for the Entertainment in the first place.  The samizdat."

Definition: The clandestine or illegal copying and distribution of literature (orig. and chiefly in the U.S.S.R.); an ‘underground press’; a text or texts produced by this. Also transf. and attrib. or as adj. Phr. in samizdat, in this form of publication.

Other: Fantods, samizdat.

Why do we love certain words?

Panties, dainties, cyber- as a prefix for absolutely anything.

Why do we hate certain words - why do they make us shiver, repulse us, provoke the howling fantods?

Fantods and samizdat speak, in a significant way, to what motivates this project for me.  When I first read them I had no idea as to their meaning, other than what little I could glean from context.  Each was rich and luxurious, strange and opaquely-meaningful.  I've thought about language a fair bit and even written a master's thesis that largely focused on communication, and yet I remain unsure of what creates an initial attraction or repulsion from certain combinations of letters.

I'd guess it's multifaceted: contextual, associative, rhythmic, and tonal.  Probably a lot more I'm not sharp enough to notice, too.  When SNOOT is taken a a pejorative, one can forget that seemingly strange words aren't useful only because they distinguish a speaker in some way (that is, performative/political function takes precedence over subjective/aesthetic function), but also because they speak to one's relationship to language, which might be one of the most fundamental relationships we can have.  Sometimes I think of concerns I have over irony and the ironic shadow cast over a language that has to always be deciphered in terms of its function, purpose, and effect.

This wasn't intended to be a longer note, so I'll cut it short here, except to say that I find it interesting and powerful that I love a word like samizdat before I know it's meaning and before I know why I might love it.  When I think on either of these questions - of meaning and appreciation - the word becomes both more meaningful and appreciated.  And this appreciation raises all sorts of questions that for me are a helluva lot of fun to consider.

See also: samizˈdatchik n.  [ < Russian -chik  , agentive suffix] one who takes part in the writing, copying, and distribution of samizdat material (pl. samizdatchiki). 

The Wikipedia page is a worthwhile read, too.

SNOOT score: 5

Source: Oxford English Dictionary, Wikipedia

No comments:

Post a Comment