Language is defined as the human ability to acquire and use complex systems of communication, and a language is any specific example of such a system. To build upon this definition, Bowen uses Ludwig Wittgenstein’s idea that,“any sort of private language would render the so-called language meaningless”(57). Community is the necessary component for effective language and communication. This principle of language being directly dependent upon community implies that culture is also a key component of building effective communication. The variations in culture make the transference of language extremely difficult, even when ideas and kobjects can be correctly identified across a variety of languages. Websites such as the Urban Dictionary and English Club hope to bridge the gap between various communities and cultures. While these sites are useful for defining commonly used words, they don’t provide much insight into their origin, social use or appropriate context. Understanding a word socially is important for not only slang words, but for a mastery of a language. Read, read, live, live, there, their, they’re, to, too, two and many other words often cause confusion when learning English. These words can be easily translated, but there may be some issues when hearing them spoken aloud during conversation.
In many current television shows, movies, comics, and books fans will adopt the jargon from the series. This has become especially popular with the advancements in technology and social networking. If for example you’re not a fan of Scandal, you may find yourself confused to hear a group of people debating about the importance being an Olitzer (someone who is in favor of the characters Olivia and Fitz pursuing a relationship) versus an Olaker (someone who is in favor of the characters Olivia and Jake pursuing a relationship). Just when you assume your confusion can go no deeper, you hear something about some type of Huckleberry Quinn. These types of conversations are also popular among fans of the Star Trek and Star Wars series, and we must not leave out those enthusiastic Twilight fans that still can’t choose between team Edward or team Jacob. These strong reactions are not limited to the stereotypical housewives, nerds, and screaming teenage girls. They can be found in a variety of places in our daily lives. One might wonder how such lighthearted forms of entreatment could evoke intense emotions among its fans. Excellently developed storylines play a major role in the popularity of the provided examples, but taking a closer look will reveal the true source of its popularity: language.
Many esteemed writers have said the key to a successful story is its ability to be relatable. What makes many of the most popular television shows, movies, books, and comics so appealing is the community of fans that support them. In the early days of Star Wars, setting up an active community of fans was a bit more difficult that it would have been today. Large conventions were used to unite fans of the series and promote the jargon and ideas expressed in by the characters in the movies. The ability to reproduce media has continued the legacy of both Star Wars and Star Trek, paving the way for a larger audience and community, increasing popularity. Scandal is one of the strongest examples of the connection between language, community and culture. The first season of the show aired only seven episodes and was expected to be canceled shortly after its premier episode. The use of social media is responsible for the shows popularity, but a few celebrity tweets weren’t enough to keep the show on the air. The show’s creator Shonda Rhimes attributes Scandal’s success to the intense use of jargon from the fans. Live tweets every Thursday night of new terms discovered within the show or created by fans have catapulted Scandal to the top of the charts. People desire to feel about of something bigger. The show’s popularity in America is outstanding, but its popularity in other countries is nothing to write home about. English speakers outside of the United States don’t understand the social relevance of many references present throughout the show. The ability to be relatable is completely lost without those social and cultural reference points. Many people outside of the US don’t understand why anyone would want to be a gladiator in a suit or why anyone would name their restaurant Gettysburger and continue to call it “presidential”. These small but significant cultural references make the show excellent for American viewers, but creates a barrier for those who have no information about the gladiator reference or the famous Gettysburg Address.
Knowing the definition of words can be helpful, but the basis for language is community and culture. Trying to separate language from community and culture breaks down the institution, and prevents communication on a deeper level. Some ideas cannot be communicated through one word. And like Bowen points out with his example of one index finger pointing, not all descriptive gestures translate cross-culturally. The only way to effectively transfer a language would be to transfer an entire culture, and as of right now there is no means of accomplishing this task.