Nailing it down with text

Hello, my name is ...?

I’ve been having mind-popping revelations as I read through the Ong (1982) text, but to focus on one particular statement, “Chirographic and typographic folk tend to think of names as labels, written or printed tags imaginatively affixed to an object named. Oral folk have no sense of a name as a tag, for they have no idea of a name as something that can be seen. Written or printed representations of words can be labels; real, spoken words cannot be” (p.33).

I chose the image above in relationship to this quote because I am a tremendously visual person – when I read this quote about naming and labeling, I was stunned to realize that indeed, when I meet someone and am told their name I do immediately visualize textually what their name “looks like.” I don’t even feel as though I know someone’s name until I know how to spell it. Lindsey? Lindsay? Lindsee? I wondered how my understanding of others’ might change if names didn’t function as labels or tags. This is still an idea I have trouble wrapping my head around.

In terms of meaning, to me, text is organization. It helps to identify, label, clarify, and expound. Text is focus. It slows things down for careful review. I can write, edit, re-read, re-edit, and dissect a text – things which make me feel comfortable and safe and clear about meaning. Text is refuge. Text is knowing what’s true or what I think is true. Text means I know your name.

For many of you, I know your name only as text, and know you only from the text you dispense as ambassadors for your thoughts. Which is kind of bizarre to think about!

Ong, Walter. (1982) Orality and literacy: The technologizing of the word. London: Methuen.

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2 Responses to Nailing it down with text

  1. Lynette Manton says:

    Hi “technoob” (sorry…),

    I have the same reaction when learning new words. I have to attach the sounds to letters in order to have any chance of retrieving it again…. Students have tried to teach me words and phrases in many different languages but I need to hang them on to something – even an approximation of the sound in English letters. Anyway, I was so interested to read that statement in Ong and, with surprise, to realize it wasn’t necessarily my personal idiosynchrasy or learning style but rather a product of my literacy.


  2. I read that section in Ong about labeling the world of “things,” too. But…I was thinking that an illiterate person might hear the word as a label, kind of like a baby does. “Where’s your belly button?” and the kid points to the right spot on their body. That’s just my knee-jerk reaction, though. What do you think?

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