The Long Tail of Language

Monday, December 19, 2005 | 07:02 AM

As someone who does a lot of writing, I occasionally think about words -- their derivations and usages. What's I've been mulling over in my mind lately is, for lack of a better phrase, the "Long Tail of Language."

How is it that certain words are either formed (or transformed) by specific subcultures, essentially creating a niche dialect? How do these words then enter the mainstream? How significant is the mass media in all this?

Every industry has its own coded language. Name the group -- Wall Street, Sports, Technology, Music, Accountants, Lawyers, Sci-Fi fans -- they each have their own unique words, phrases, and jargon. The verbiage makes membership part of a subculture where you are hip (or at least an insider) and helps to hold the outside world at bay.

Given my interest in Psychology and Investor Sentiment, I am curious about how these memes travel thru "the crowd."

Sites like wordspy, help sow the seeds of the move from niche to mainstream to cliche. Indeed, Wired magazine covers this transition with its section on Wired - Tired - Expired.

My favorite recent example is bling-bling. Originally an urban colloquilism, it moved into hip hop, then to MTV, which gave it entree to the rest of Television. From there, the step to white suburbia was a gimme.

Now, its become a marketing phrase for Target.

In my field, I wonder about how these ill advised "rules" get started, then circulated, and finally accepted as fact (when they are not).  As a species, do we tend to accept spouted aphorisms from supposed experts unexamined? That explanation goes a long way towards explaining some of the self-destructive investor behavior we witness . . . 

Monday, December 19, 2005 | 07:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (1) add to | digg digg this! | technorati add to technorati | email email this post



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» Living in Language from Journey
Much of what I plan to write about has to do with how our brains work. My understanding is that we, as humans, live in language. That is, we constantly make new interpretations of the world we live in, and we make these interpretations in language.<... [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 21, 2005 3:47:52 AM


herd animals, herd animals, herd animals...we all just want to belong...repeat...herd, herd, herd...

it's that simple...

Posted by: james | Dec 19, 2005 8:18:51 AM

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