11 de nov de 2009

A little fun with words (and a little criticism of academic language...)

Imagine having to translate this:

"The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony as bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power."

In Brazilian Portuguese, sentences like these are normal in the academic sphere, and this is probably my worst translator's nightmare. The sentence is in Judith Butler's article 'Further Reflections on the Conversations of Our Time' and won the Worst Sentence of the Year award in the Philosophy and Literature Bad Writing Contest of 1998, according to the New Yorker.

But where is the fun of the title? In the same New Yorker article there's a link to a widget created by the University of Chicago, Make Your Own Academic Sentence. You just have to choose four phrases from the drop down lists and click the Write it! button. Then you'll get a "sentence" like this:

The linguistic construction of linguistic transparency may be parsed as the legitimation of process.

Or like this:

The poetics of pop culture recapitulates the historicization of print culture.

It could be the start of your own thesis! Or a discussion like this (click to enlarge):

(I learned about the NYer article from a tweet by @wordnick. To create your own silly comics: http://www.makebeliefscomix.com/)

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