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Now that project month is over I thought I’d reflect on some of the things I missed in the writing news, but I got sidetracked by a story that hit the culture headlines this week – the prospect of another three Star Wars films.

This reminded me of the efforts made a few years ago to encourage people to list their religion as Jedi on government census forms, and got me thinking about how some ideas become part of our cultural landscape.

As I have said before, storytelling is hugely important, and many stories remain part of our consciousness for centuries.  Their characters, or memorable quotes, become part of everyday language – and even if we have never read the stories ourselves, we use the terminology.

We might think of Shakespeare, who is the source of a number of phrases still in use today – and who would know they are using phrases written for Elizabethan plays?  Or Bram Stoker: he was not the first person to write about vampires, but Dracula is probably the most famous literary vampire (in English-language literature, at any rate).

A more modern example might be George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, a book that spawned the phrase ‘Big Brother is watching you’ amongst others.  The idea has taken hold and we now see the phrase used by some people when talking about covert surveillance – or reality tv!

So why do some stories seem so much bigger than others, and why do they seem to last in our consciousness for such a long time?

I don’t have an answer, really – it could be that they’re taught in schools so each age group is introduced to them; it could be that they survive and others don’t either because they went out of print or were not as popular when released; it could be that they caught the public mood of a time, and became famous/notorious as a result.

Nowadays, marketing has a bigger part to play, but I don’t think that’s enough on its own – it might make something fashionable but it won’t make it timeless.  On the other hand, the Harry Potter series has grown from a set of books into a world-wise phenomenon covering films, clothing, holidays, tours and countless official and unofficial websites plus lots more, so marketing clearly has some influence!

Of course we don’t really think about the fact we are using Shakespearean phrases, or referring to mythological characters.  Maybe in another five hundred years, people will say they’re as forceful as a Jedi, and it’ll be perfectly meaningful…

Happy writing,

EJ

🙂

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