Are you a code-switcher or logophile?

If you haven’t already, I’d urge you to read Ian Brown’s piece from the Globe & Mail this past Saturday (You can also find the link in the feed on the sidebar).

I quite enjoyed the piece, finding it insightful, but there are those with more expertise in matters linguistic that have taken issue with many of the article’s arguments. For a good analysis of the finer points made in the piece try English, Jack.

What I found most useful was the division of word-mongers into two camps – code-switchers and logophiles. In brief, logophiles are those who love words for their own sake – regardless of how obscure or flowery they may be. Code-switchers believe that there is really no such thing as a standard vocabulary and what we say and how we are understood is wholly dependant on our comprehension of and proficiency in a particular context.

Perhaps some examples to clarify. Conrad Black is a logophile. A lawyer in court before a judge and the lawyer at home with his kids is engaged in code-switching. He needs two different vocabularies to be proficient in each context.

I think I fall somewhere in between the two.

I like words for their own sake and can always admire how a finely wrought piece of verbiage hangs together – how it sounds even if what it’s saying is absolute rubbish. I do acknowledge that this can go to far. Something which becomes abundantly clear if you ever thumb through a medical, scientific or legal journal..

Equally I enjoy seeing how words are used in different contexts, how they become infused with meaning and influence how one interprets the other words around them. If pressed, I’d say favour this lens. I like trying to figure out how words are intended to be used, why one word was chosen over another and whether the author’s intentions match what can be interpreted.

Based on that, I guess I’m using this blog for code-breaking exercises…

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