Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Ethical Pwoermdist

Geof Huth, "wordflesh" (8 April 2018)

Today, Jeremy C. Casabella wrote me to ask me an ethical question:

I put together a pwoermd that had implications with which I felt uncomfortable, and so I changed it. Do you feel it Is a pwoermdist's responsibility in being a pwoermdist to catch them all, or is it best to ignore some possibilities?

I returned a jesuitical response:

We can’t catch everything. But people can hold us responsible for what we make all the same.

I then asked him to send me the two works so I could judge the former against the latter. I found the replacement pwoermd, the revision, to be more problematic--but for reasons entirely different than the problem he had with the first pwoermd.

The interest here was low-level social responsibility (how we show respect to people somehow unlike us). Yet we both came away with different thoughts on what was best, which is to say, least offensive. Jeremy argued, convincingly, that his original would be more offensive to more people, which I agreed could certainly be the case.

The issue here is that we all speak different languages. We have individual relationships with something as complex as language, so we see it from different perspectives, one for each person on earth for each second of their individual lives. 

And that has something to do with the magic of pwoermds. Sometimes, we write an ingenious poem in a single word, but no-one understands the point of it. That doesn't make the poem weak or worthless. It merely shows we can never know enough about language, but we can keep trying--and keep enjoying language as we do.

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