One of the best examples of the materiality of language at work has been provided by Adrian Miles in a posting to the Humanist discussion list. Humanist 26.663 “digital materiality”
A simple example I use with undergraduates. In a lecture I ask “What rhymes with shop and you buy at the butchers?” Someone answers “chop”. I repeat this until the whole room replies with “chop”, I then ask “what do you do at a green light?” And the room replies “stop”. Most have no awareness of the error until I point out that they would have failed their driving test.
The point? That there is a material facet to language that is present, easily able to disrupt logic, reason, the rationale, that it has its own pleasures of the body (it can be carnal and corporeal) and its own resistances. After all only some things rhyme with each other, intonation can fundamentally change meaning, and as Derrida in Limited Inc demonstrated, even accurate quotation is no guarantor of the integrity or sovereignty of reason. (Or I could use Kristeva and her notion of the chora as a way to think about a materiality outside of the rational.) These material aspects have qualities and they push back, offer resistance on their own terms […] In many ways it is what it means to be an artist in any medium, to live with the materiality of your medium so you learn how to listen to it.
I flunked the driving test, captivated by rhyme, I said “stop” [the effect is even more pronounced as the eye scans ahead and finds the word – silent reading is no safeguard of sense].
And so for day 915