Mar 082007

As you may have noticed, I have been suffering, lately especially, from blogger’s block. Probably most people who ever started blogs do. However, true bloggers instead suffer from blogolalia, or perhaps blogorrhea, running off at the keyboard uninhibitedly. This dramatizes the simple fact that most of us are quite addicted to the use of language, to uttering utterances, whether or not we have anything to say. We like attention, and the easiest way to seek it is by talking. (“Blogolalia” my takeoff on glossolalia, speaking in tongues — as seen in Borat— religiously mouthing gibberish as if in a foreign, possibly holy language, which might be what infants in the babbling stage feel before they quite get that their mother tongue has definite words with strict associated meanings.) The second easiest, today, is by keyboarding, and especially by blogging. Then there is vlogging , but for now let’s not go there.

I  once lived across from a schoolyard  — of an elementary  school — and became quite familiar with the distinctive sound of children playing, their high voices going almost continually, like birds chirping, but with lots more variety, all seemingly talking at once, though undoubtedly they actually paused now and again to listen to their playmates, as they called, yelled, cooed, shouted, jabbered, sang, and put out other sounds in various states of delight (mostly) and occasional hurt or anger or just surprise. A joyful hubbub, altogether, a unique sound.

Undoubtedly a few children held back, too shy, or perhaps simply taciturn, with no thought of anything to say, nor even any un-thought saying on their lips. But most liked to express themselves vocally, more or less nonstop. That is what humans like to do when they can and when culture or some more idiosyncratic traumatic experience does not inhibit them. Adults do it too, of course; check out any restaurant, at least one filled with youngish people, those under sixty, say. Sometimes, these days, people at a restaurant table, instead of talking to each other, talk on cell phones, the advent of which allows people the illusion they can always be talking, though unfortunately, to keep up their end of the conversation, they must also listen occasionally. With a much older crowd, you do seem to get quiet, sometimes seeing long married couples with nothing to say to each other. One wonders, were they taught to shut up? Or just to speak softly, lest the secrets they share break the bounds of confidentiality.

By the time I was in third grade I had achieved an unusual degree of self-control or inhibition, whichever you want to call it. My third -grade teacher, Mrs. Crampton, a jolly, roly-poly woman who often, at least in my memory, wore a red suit and liked to play the piano in class, had a game that she occasionally imposed on her pupils. It was called “playing oyster” (this was near the shore, definitely oyster country). It was quite easy. You had to sit with your hands joined behind your back and your mouth shut, as punishment for talking too much. However, I alone usually had not been talking too much, so I was given a pass, allowed to wander to the back of the classroom and read magazines.

Why was I not talking? It was not at all because I did not enjoy expressing myself, I think; it was just that I had somehow gleaned, perhaps from my second-grade teacher (Miss Dix?) far away in corn country that talking in class — unless called upon by the teacher —meant you would have the dreaded ruler paced on your desk, and that in turn meant you were about to be beaten with it — a fate too awful to want to experience even once —or so I felt. Although now that I focus on it, I can remember also being quite inhibited in kindergarten as well, even though I liked to jabber away at home.

Still, I think such inhibitions are related to fear of punishment, or if you go deeper, ostracism — very dangerous for a social creature such as a primate or human being — or the worst fear of all, and even more primordial —being gobbled up by some carnivore if one reveals one’s presence by making a noise.

Of course, few carnivores are successful as yet at hunting down bloggers who blog excessively; the worst that is likely to happen is that overwhelmed readers will decide to switch to some more moderate blogifiers. Presumably we would not continue to pay attention to bloggers who are too predictable, but we also might not enjoy those who are too unpredictable. Some happy medium may be needed between — for instance —the careful and reasoned ones, who nonetheless say things that challenge the common wisdom, and those who say everything that pops into their heads but never think a thought that their readers might not have thought. (If you really want to draw a crowd, the latter may well be the best strategy, though it holds little appeal for me.) But then comes the doubt. Which is it? Is this completely obvious, or is it too wild on some ground or another? Should I think this over one more time before putting it out? Would it pass muster in a refereed journal — definitely not the right criterion, it seems for blogging.

We might think of each blog entry as a t most a draft of something that in much edited form might someday be published in more conventional form. But then it may quickly be put aside by readers who are too busy reading the latest blogs to take the time to read some so polished — and now old— as to be publishable. Today’s timeline is very short, as it has to be if we wish to keep our attention circulating among the living, and to compete with whatever else and whoever else is hot right now.

Need I add, stay tuned, there will soon be more……..

  One Response to “Blogger’s Block vs. Blogolalia”

  1. […] have become more and more frequent; I’m entering the state Goldhaber calls, ‘blogalalia‘. Sort of.The simplest interpretation of ‘blogolalia’ is constant blogging. At […]

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