Visual Impact?

By | Thursday, May 17, 2012 Leave a Comment
I grew up in an area of the country where a sugary carbonated beverage was called "pop." I can't imagine not having heard "soda" before college, but it was around that time that I consciously decided that "pop" was an ugly word, and "soda" was rolled off the tongue much more easily. I suspect the change had something to do with drinking more soda in college than I had previously, and possibly being in a more diverse environment where I heard different slang from other parts of the country, but it was a deliberate choice on my part. I made active choice to change my internal dictionary to reflect my thoughts.

Seven or eight years ago, my (at the time) brother-in-law came out of his kitchen with something he called an I.C.D -- improvised chocolate desert. It was my birthday, and he knew my penchant for chocolate so he put together this combination of chocolate ice cream with chocolate chips, chocolate syrup and a Kit Kat bar. He handed it to me, wishing me a happy birthday, and I responded "Cheers!" It's not a word used much in the "hey, thanks" sense here in the United States. In fact, I think, prior to that utterance, I had only heard it on British TV shows and movies. But I had watched enough of them over the years that it slipped into my personal vocabulary. That was the first time I'd actively noticed that my own word selection had been surreptitiously affected by media consumption.

More recently, I was trying to explain a technical problem to a group of non-technical people at work. Technical jargon obviously won't work in this instance, so I believe I said something to the effect of, "If the two computers have trouble talking to each other, the data gets all wonky." Someone stopped me immediately. "Did you just say 'wonky'?" The word has since cropped up in a number of other meetings.

My individual word choices are based on a combination of conscious and subconscious decisions. If I hear a word or phrase that I like, I might decide to adopt it. If I hear a word or phrase that I don't necessarily like, but hear repeatedly over an extended period, I might adopt that as well.

How many people do you suppose have started trying to find an excuse to drop "mewling quim" since Avengers came out?

What I'm wondering, in light of that, is what kind of impact visuals have on our language. Does seeing drawings of Spider-Man swinging by a web with his arms and legs going every which way influence how we think about... something? I don't know what that something might be, but it seems like there ought to be some effect based on the repetition of seeing that same type of image over and over. I'm sure it would influence how other artists draw Spidey, but what about people who don't draw?

Not just Spidey, of course. How do all of the repeated images of our favorite characters impact how we see? I'm not just talking about how being able to read comics impacts our thought process, but how do specific images -- or types of images, like the Superman akimbo pose or the brooding, wrapped in his cape Batman pose -- impact how we express ourselves?
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