A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Sunday, February 7, 2010

High Tech, Low Tech, and Dead Tech

Geoffrey K. Pullum finds an anachronism: 
Sticking a label on a manila file of household papers this morning I noticed that the instructions on the sheet of labels said "Insert opposite end into typewriter." It wasn't so much the ridiculous controllingness that made me smile (the labels had no header strip, so they were symmetrical, and it would make absolutely no difference if you used the sheet one way up rather than the other); it was the quaint old lexical item typewriter. I wonder what young people would think of that advice, if they ever read the instructions on anything (they don't, of course; they learn the operating systems of their new cellphones by intuition). A typewriter? When did I last even see one? It was like coming upon a word like "spats" or "snuffbox" or "inkwell" in a modern business context. I wonder if the wording will survive unnoticed on every sheet of labels manufactured by that company until the phrase has become a sort of dead metaphor or incomprehensible incantation.
The comments on this Language Log item are kind of fun, too.  

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