Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Around the Word: A Tale to Tell

This is your brain. This is your brain on stories. For hump-day, the BloGG takes a look at the art and science of narrative.
  • Jay-Z says that his new memoir Decoded "follows the jumpy logic of poetry and emotion"—and so does its marketing campaign. In a nation-wide scavenger hunt, all 306 released pages of the memoir have been "hidden" in major cities around the country, explains The New York Observer. The pages might be found scrawled on the backboard of a basketball hoop, sewn into the silk lining of a Gucci jacket, or printed on the roof of a New Orleans theater, depending on their content. Fans can find clues on a Bing site that logs the discovered pages, and one lucky Jay-Zealot will win lifetime passes to Jay-Z's shows.
  • Once again, science tells us what we already know—we are the stories we tell. The voice in your head that narrates your life ("So-and-so makes you happy," "You are suffering unfairly") actually shows up in PET images of the brain, activating not only the language centers but the comprehension and interpretation areas as well. The mind is hardwired to narrate the self—one reason stories can be so persuasive in ad campaigns and speeches. But how did we get here, and where are we going? Writing in New Scientist, neuroscientist John Bickle and philosophy of science student Sean Keating tell the story of the "narrative self," and consider the effects that fragmented "2.0" digital narratives may have on that inner voice.
  • In a classic tale of the Little Word That Could, the abbrev "O.K." grew from humble origins as a spelling error ("oll korrekt") into an international morpheme of mystery. The Baltimore Sun's John McIntyre sums up the word's journey, based on a new historical account, OK: The Improbable Story of America's Greatest Word. In the book, Allan Metcalf of the American Dialect Society chronicles the rise of the little term that now implies everything from "good enough, serviceable" (just OK) to "a mantra of tolerance and acceptance" (you're OK by me). What other quirky words would you like to see biographied?

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