Mona Lisa’s duckface? The world changes with every word we make up

by Rashmee

Posted on June 7, 2015



duckfaceDoes the world change with every word we make up to describe it?

It’s a good question and probably best answered by considering the word “duckface”. This was defined by Collins Dictionary last year as “a pouting expression when posing for a photograph”. As The Economist blogged at the time: “Until someone pointed out ‘duckface’ in self-portraits, I had never noticed it. Now that I have the word in my vocabulary, I can’t help but notice it, a small bit of evidence for Whorfianism.”

So there you have it. Whorfianism. Or the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis, which is loosely about language having an impact on thought, though there is much quibbling about whether it determines it or merely influences it. (Linguist Edward Sapir and his student Benjamin Lee Whorf have given their names to this, though they apparently did not suggest this hypothesis and certainly not as co-authors.)

Anyway, the very word “duckface” makes me look for it. And use it.

“By using stale metaphors,  similes and idioms, you save  much mental effort, at the  cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself.”           - George Orwell
“By using stale metaphors, similes and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself.”
– George Orwell

Rashmee has lived and worked in several countries in the past decade, including Afghanistan, India, Haiti, Tunisia, the UAE, US and UK

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