Let’s assume for a minute that I finish my last lectionary-help essay, and am therefore entirely caught up on my obligated writing (apart from book contracts, but that’s a whole different wok of vegetables). One of my next projects involves tracking down some problematic premises about interpretation that seem plausible, even obvious, at the outset, but that lead to dire confusions further down the line. One of these premises involves thinking about communication on the model of code, so that my asking my office-neighbour Doug how his weekend went should be understood as an exercise usefully comparable to my sending Boris Badenov* a telegram that says, “VBRIN ZP NBOIOR KLDDA VRONIAK.”
I won’t go into the details of my argument here and now (I’ll surely blog some of it out anon, as I have done in the past), but I need to leave a mark here pointing to Barry J. Blake’s Secret Language: Codes, Tricks, Spies, Thieves, and Witchcraft, which Scott McLemee mentions in this morning’s Inside Higher Education. I doubt it’ll be the most important conversation partner of my essay(s), but it will surely inform and strengthen what I have to say (especially since it’s written by a linguistics scholar).
* OK, I suppose that at some point in my life I should confess my ardent childhood crush on Natasha. Six-year-old me could not imagine glamour more intense than she embodied. Forgive me, Father, for fifty years ago I lusted after a cartoon character (inasmuch as a six-year-old “lusts” in a culpable sense, and inasmuch as one could commit an illicit act with a cartoon character).