Though I wrote in my last blog post that writers tend to enjoy seclusion, the act of writing is social, just maybe not in the way that would be assumed. I found “Writing is a Social and Rhetorical Activity” in Naming What We Know to be very interesting. When I am sitting at my desk alone, it is hard to give credit to others when I am the one writing. Nevertheless, I am writing based on experience. Kevin Roozen stated, “No matter how isolated a writer my seem […] she is always dreaming upon the ideas and experiences of countless others” (17). Even now, it is a bit ironic that I am am writing this blog-post about writing being a social activity, as a result of reading a text that argues that all writing is inspired from other texts. If all writing is inspired from something else, whether it be another text or an idea, it can be confusing then when to define something as an original or unique idea. Regardless, just because something was inspired from another idea, does not mean that this idea is not something to invest in. Everyone has a different point of view. One of the main reasons I most love writing is knowing that I can write something with one idea in mind and it can affect someone else in an entirely different way. Writing can be exactly what a person needs, so people have the ability to take what they have read before and transform it into something new.

Just like speaking, it is imperative to keep the audience in mind when writing. I always cringe from second-hand embarrassment when I hear someone tell an ill-timed joke. I think to myself, “know your audience.” I agree with John Duffy that it is important to ask yourself a few questions before beginning to write; one of these questions is “What effects will my word have upon others, upon my community?” (31). The audience plays a huge role in how a text is read, which plays into writing being a social activity. The meaning of a text truly comes from the reader. It does not matter what a writer means to say; it is all about how a person interprets the text. This interpretation all adds to writing being a social activity. For example, I know that this post will lead to a discussion with my colleagues.

Writing has the ability to adapt depending on the reader and context, which is something that I find to be very special. In many disciplines, there is one answer and one way to get said desired result. In writing, however, words have different meanings depending on the “dynamic relation of writer, reader and text” (Bazerman 22). A person’s background could affect the way they read a sentence. Background could be anything from place of birth, subject of study, or sexual orientation. In “Why Context Matters in Writing,” Julien Samson notes that context can include “a personality trait,” “a life changing situation,” or “an anecdote” to name a few (par. 6). Due to these differences, definitions of words can change over time. Words that were once common no longer are used. This is true for slang words, as well as well-known terms. For example, “lit” is a common slang term used today (I tend to overuse this word, feel free to cringe), but (fortunately?) it will most likely die out within the next few years. Although the ’90s was not that long ago, slang terms from that decade are rarely heard. Although, I would argue that “hella” and “sup” are still phrases that are commonly used, or at least I use them often (Larkin para. 17 and 19). In addition to slang terms, there are words that have been around for years that are now slowly ceasing to exist, as well as new words that have recently become widely known. Dylan B. Dryer discusses words that have gone nearly extinct, such as “mankind,” and words that have taken on an entirely new meaning, such as “green,” taking on a more “political” meaning (24). More words that have changed meaning over time can be found here. Although these changes are recent, there are some common words today that meant something completely different a few centuries ago. John Green explains the origin and old meanings of many words that mean much different things now than they did when they were first brought into the English language.

Watching the entire video is not necessary; however, I found I learned the original meaning of a lot of words!

I find it so fascinating that as people become more educated, new words appear. For example, there are a plethora of new gender pronouns that have started to become common place. An example of these pronouns are zie/zim/zir/zis/zieself. I try my best to learn what I can about gender pronouns. Language is ~magical~ in that new concepts are adopted and embraced often. Writing is something that can be both seclusive and social at the same time. It has the power to transform over time and create new words and definitions when current words just aren’t enough. I will never cease to be amazed by language and writing.

Works Cited

Bazerman, Charles. “Writing Expresses and Shares Meaning to be Reconstructed by the Reader.” Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, Classroom Edition. Ed. Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle, Utah State University Press, 2016, 21-23.

Dewey, Caitlin, 24 Words that Mean Totally Different Things Now than they Did Pre-Internet, The Washington Post, 15 October 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2015/10/15/24-words-that-mean-totally-different-things-now-than-they-did-pre-internet/?noredirect=on.

Duffy, John “Writing Involves Making Ethical Choices.” Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, Classroom Edition. Ed. Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle, Utah State University Press, 2016, 31-32.

Dryer, Dylan B. “Words Get their Meanings from Other Words.” Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, Classroom Edition. Ed. Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle, Utah State University Press, 2016, 23-25.

Gender Pronouns. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center, 30 August 2019, https://uwm.edu/lgbtrc/support/gender-pronouns/.

Larkin, Bob. 20 Slang Terms from the 1990s No One Uses Anymore. BestLife, 8 December 2017, https://bestlifeonline.com/1990s-slang-terms/

Mental Floss. 27 Words that Totally Changed Meanings. YouTube, 1 September 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAUEk8nbZJ8. Accessed 31 August 2019.

Roozen, Kevin. “Writing is a Social and Rhetorical Activity.” Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, Classroom Edition. Ed. Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle, Utah State University Press, 2016, 17-19.

Samson, Julien. Why Context Matters: Building a Relationship with a Reader. The Writing Cooperative, 28 June 2017, https://writingcooperative.com/why-context-matters-in-writing-f52ad075c07a.

3 thoughts on “Writing: A Social Transformation

  1. Hey Peyton,

    I really appreciated your blog post and how smoothly it flows. Starting with the topic of seclusion, I thought it was really clever to use the anecdote of yourself crafting a blog post alone but with the guidance of the voices from the text. That didn’t even cross my mind, but you’re completely right.

    I also really enjoyed your paragraph that dove into context and the meaning of words. That was my favorite section of the readings, and the John Green video was a great use of a multimodal element. I can’t believe I didn’t think about using his videos on my own blog. Overall, your blog post was very well thought out and polished.

  2. I think this is a very interesting perspective to take on writing. I think, as writers, we sometimes forget how the interconnected nature of audience, context, background, and word choice can affect the meaning of the content we are producing.

    In your post, you focus in on words and how they’re changing and/or disappearing as time passes. Do you believe that advancements in technology have increased the rate that this is happening? I feel as though I’m introduced to a new word every week (if not more often). If so, I wonder what that means for 19th century American English in the coming decades.

  3. Hi Peyton,
    As a daughter, I was always perplexed as to how my mother seemed to know what I was thinking. As a mother, I found out the secret. I was doing the same things my mother had done, and my kids were doing the same things I had done. This is a constant, or according to Elton John, “The Circle of Life.” Really, there is nothing new in life. What makes the situation new or unique or original, is the perspective that an individual brings to the situation. So, while an idea may not be new, it is new due to the way the person lives, experiences, and writes about it.

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