Thursday, July 24, 2008


The post below promising an espresso and a free kitty to unattended children caught the eye of ThirdCat, who has also been seeing interesting child-related signs, which in turn reminded me of something I saw yesterday at the supermarket checkout.

You know those little recipe booklet thingies, maybe 5"x7", often put out by the Women's Weekly, on very particular themes and with maybe 20-30 recipes in them, one per page? There was a rack of them at the checkout yesterday and the title of the most prominent one had obviously been inspired by textspeak, specifically the practice of using numbers to signify words and/or phonemes, as in, say, "L8er, dood" or "Luv 2 ur mum", etc.

And several different people -- the writer, the editor, the designer, the publisher -- must have all had a nasty case of 3.30-itis, like the dude in the Continental Soup ad who lets the drug packages go through. Because the book was called

4 Kids To Cook


TimT said...

Yeah, there's a Chinese medicine store in Coburg that advertises 'Tasty children herbal products'! I put a photo of it on my blog when I saw it some time ago. They haven't taken the sign down, but they have more recently put up an object (I forget what) obscuring the word 'children', so it now reads 'Tasty herbal products'.

Kind of like that book title in the Simpsons episode, where characters blow dust away on the cover to reveal different titles:


klaus k said...

Damn, I had a comment ready but the connection was severed. I think the ambiguity comes from inconsistent use of numerals instead of single syllable words.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Like two, too, to, four, for, fore, eight and ate, you mean?

I think the hearing-based use in textspeak of single letters that are also common words (B, C, Q, R, T, U and Y in particular) can give rise to even more grotesque misunderstandings. I blame the 'whole language' method of teaching children to read.

Anonymous said...

"Kind of like that book title in the Simpsons episode, where characters blow dust away on the cover to reveal different titles:"

They would have been riffing on that old "Twilight Zone" episode called "To Serve Man"


klaus k said...

Yes, exactly. It would have been clear that the rules had been changed if 'to' had become '2'.

I'm aware of your feelings on whole language from previous comments. As to whether or not you're correct on this point, I have no idea. It sounds like a reasonable enough explanation to me. I was more inclined to blame the appropriation of graffiti and hip-hop culture by the mainstream.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Well indeed, but where did graffiti and hip-hop culture come from? Bwahahahaha.

(Actually, the answer to that is partly '"Ebonics", or Black English'. The whole notion of phonetic representation of speech tends to get used as a kind of 'empire strikes back' tool of the oppressed, based presumably on the notion that traditional literacy is a marker of the oppressor, as in the work of Scottsh writers James Kelman and Tom Leonard. I wonder where, if at all, this particular politicised approach intersects with theories of teaching literacy. There's a thesis in it. Jeez you can take the girl out of the academy ...)

klaus k said...

I don't know where either, but I'll wager it does intersect.

I wonder if there's a certain complicity between early literacy teaching and the adolescent tendency to listen to and act like peers instead of teachers, parents etc.

For some reason I'm also thinking of Paul Willis' 'Learning to Labour' about adolescent resistance.

Anonymous said...

Probably less likely to be 'whole language' literacy teaching and more likely to be 'kids who couldn't keep up getting ignored in classes of 30 kids', which is timeless. I can't think anymore about this because I haven't had any sleep for two years and whatever I used to be able to write has gorn.

lucy tartan said...

You know I'm with you on this subject, so: I'm really in two minds about the writing down of Scots question. It's not always invented phonetic spellings in that case - fairly often it's genuinely different words, or genuine variants with nice long pedigrees; or what I really like, when a word that looks like a variant or regional spelling turns out to perhaps also carry different shades of meaning.

Do the Womens Weekly do a Burns dinner cook book? They should.

Deborah said...

I've only got three kids to cook. Maybe I could persuade one of my girls' friends to come around for the cooking session....

Pavlov's Cat said...

The connection with 'whole language' in this case wasn't meant o be particularly snarky, for once, only to note that the difference between the written and the spoken word is largely obliterated in its theory and practice so people brought up on it would be much more likely to respond to the sound of numbers and letters. (As a pre-whole-language-educated person, I couldn’t understand how to pronounce INXS until I heard somebody say it.)

Re the Scots, yep, I was thinking even as I wrote that there are actually important differences even just between Tom Leonard, who does phonetic representations of the Scottish accent, and James Kelman who is more into Glaswegian speech patterns, rhythms and local lexical items.

I am sure that if you wrote to the WW and suggested a Burns dinner cookbook they'd be all over it in a flash. Didn't someone write an absolute cracker of a blog post about this lovely custom once?

If I ever get my act together and organise a Burns Supper we’ll have Tipsy Laird for dessert and we’ll all watch and listen to this.

klaus k said...

Assuming you are a correct about the obliteration of difference between written and spoken, no wonder students find deconstruction so difficult. Certain written neologisms like 'differance' instead of difference becomes virtually meaningless. Yet another obstacle in the way of Derrida getting a fair hearing in the Anglophone academy (and I mean by both supporters and detractors). No wonder the kids are all Deleuzians: it's all about what texts do, rather than how they are constituted.

lucy tartan said...

Yes, Kirsty wrote about going to one. Among the many things i liked about that post was that even thought she was vegetarian at the time she tried the haggis. It's good to see that sort of moderate balancing up in action.

Irn-Bru looks like Lucozade but it's such a cool name for a drink.