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T-ainm an omen: Omen an t-ainm: Would Any Other Name Smell As Sweet?

“... [before] I’m accused of a complicated plot that I’m not mentally capable of thinking up.”
— Richard Jeni

Philosopher Peter Carruthers[1] recently suggested that there is no such thing as conscious thought. I’m beginning to lean that direction myself. Our memories are suspect by any applicable measurement. They are suspect both in accuracy[2] and existence[3].[4] There is a good chance that up to thirty-percent of your memories right now are false. Not false as in incorrect, but rather false as in — never happened. So we have this two-thirds of our memories telling us, ‘it’s all good, we got this,’ and we don’t give the rest much thought afterward.

As a writer, probably just like you, I give certain elements of my stories a level of focus and detailed attention that other aspects may not receive. These aspects are important to me, personally, and likely why I’m writing the story at all — fiction or nonfiction. For me,  one of those places — though not so elemental to the message — are the names of my characters. I enjoy that bit. Naming my characters.

I recently named a character ‘Ocean’. I felt the name fit the character. I was particularly happy with this choice. Try saying that name out loud. Humor me. Say ‘Ocean’. It has a full body, doesn’t it? Saying that name opens up the mouth and throat, and reaches down into the lungs to pull the word up like the moon pulls up the tide. Then it ends. Not suddenly or empty, it just stops like the final reach of a wave up on the shore — reach and gone with the hint of a sigh. The meaning is premimorial, to encompass the full expanse of all the seas; or the name of a god. That bit pleased me a great deal. I didn’t learn that part until later in the story when the female character looked up his name, which was like chapter four or something.


We know a lot about Ocean, don’t we? I’ve basically described him completely. But, yes I have. I have
named him. And like the ‘naming’ engaged in by the ancient wizards, have called Ocean into existence — in full form and complete. What do we not know? We know Ocean is male. That is obvious I think. He’s tall. Taller than normal. Mature — but could be seriously old. He looks good so we’ll go with ‘mature’. We know he has blue eyes, his hair is white or platinum blonde. And we know he is one of the heroes of the story. No, not because he is beautiful, but because his name is Ocean.

Unfair? How do you think I felt?  I have, all of these years, believed that naming was a creative process. Now, it seems that their names were always obvious, and predefined. The sound of their name, it seems, describes the character[5] — several recent studies have found.

Nomen est Omen, with fiction writers — we choose the name of the characters; the sound of the chosen name describes the character. It is interesting the metaphor language we use for names in light of this — the name ‘fits’, he’ll ‘grow into it’, he ‘looks like a Name.’

Ocean is male because of the ‘O’ vowel which dominates the word and the ‘c’ shissssing away from that big ‘O’. The ‘ean’ which sounds phonetically like ‘end’ maintains that big ‘O’ feel, which in turn offers Ocean the depth in fathoms. That brings in the feel of deep blueness and deep blueness feelings experienced from first names denote ‘good guy’, ‘mature guy’, and if not the MC, ‘important guy’, with damn good looks thrown in as well.   Yeah, all that.

The ‘damn good looks’ part was especially crawly-creepy,  as Ocean is a cambion, from a Succubus(sex demon).


I just got done going through all of this research last night. The area of study is called psycholinguistics, an annual conference in Europe is called AMLaP(Architectures and Mechanisms of Language Processing).   It is an amazing discovery for me, and there has been a great deal of work and publication on this subject. (see further reading below). Further down this rabbit hole is that the data appears to support the premises these clues and facets are cross-cultural — they are true for the languages they’ve tested so far.

Much of the motivation to these studies comes from basically four words: Kiki and Bouba. Ferdinand de Saussure’s influential theory of semiology clearly states in Principle I: “The bond between the signifier and the signified is arbitrary.” Meaning that cat and dog could mean dog and cat. Modern linguistics is built upon this presupposition—that the relationship between the signifier (or sound- image) in a language and the signified, or concept, has no direct, discernible pattern. According to Saussure, these relationships are based solely on convention and collective behavior.

This preliminary assumption of the Saussurean model, however, has been complicated and challenged in a number of ways since the time it was published. And that is where Kiki and Bouba[6] come in.  If I told you that kiki was an object would it be a sharp pointy object or a smooth roundish object? What about bouba? What color is kiki? How does a glass of bouba taste? Most people when asked questions like these say that kiki is pointy, rough, yellow or bright and sour or hot. Bouba is blue-ish, smooth, round, cold and creamy. They are of course terms created for tests like these and others. Other words like ‘Maluma’ and ‘Takete’ are also used.[7]


Poets and writers, of course, realize that the sounds words make can be used towards expressive means beyond their purely semantic content. The sounds of words can “feel'' sharp or dull, for example; they can give a phenomenological or kinesthetic response. Marketeers and advertisers, those who create names for new products, use this knowledge to great effect, seeking the ways spoken words (and neologisms) can evoke images and elicit an emotional impact. While morphemes— roots, prefixes and suffixes—are generally considered the foundation of meaning, some evidence shows that phoneme sounds, situated at a lower level, can influence meaning subconsciously.

This awareness of these word architectures and the mechanisms underlying our communication opens up a vista of possibilities. If I am understanding all of this (which we know I’m not, not yet), then on some level I’m aware of these considerations as I’m picking one out.

Black and Wilcox (2011) note that writers take informed and careful decisions when attributing  names  to  their  characters.   Specifically, while care is taken to have names that are easily identifiable and phonologically attractive,  or that are important for personal reasons,  these are not the only considerations: names are chosen so that they match the personality, the past, and the cultural background of a character.

According to Algeo (2010) behind each namelies a story while Ashley (2003) suggests that a literary name must be treated as a small poem with all the wealth of information that implies. Markey(1982) and Nicolaisen (2008) raised concerns on whether onomastics can be applied to names inart given the different functional roles of names as well as their intrinsic characteristics, namely sensitivity and creativity. ‘Redende namen[8]’ (significant names) is a widespread theory that seeks the relationship between name and form (Rudnyckyj,1959).

I don’t mind admitting that the comedian Richard Jeni’s complaint about his girlfriend accusing him of complicated plots he’s not mentally capable of thinking up(Platypus Man[9]) comes to the front of my mind. There is also the old adage of the instructor's lecture noting that the author is using the Blue curtains to emphasize the depression and mourning of the main character as he sits alone in his living-room — followed by the author quoting ‘the curtains are blue because they are blue.’ But I’m also aware that sound is a factor. For my personal taste perhaps not the sound of a particular word but, yes for how the words flow together.

Fabiënne Reedijk appears to be particularly active in this area of study and research. AMLaP 2012 just occurred in September, so that explains the activity level in many respects.  

Much of the research is on the rest of our vocabulary, other than names, but it appears from the data that these ‘preferences’ to color, shape and appearance encoding within word sounds are universal, cross-linguistic — it is the same in German, Dutch, Spanish, Russian, Slavic, Egyptian, Arabian, Chinese, Korean, French, etc.

As A Writer

Is this a symptom of becoming aware of how much thought is being pressed into what I thought was direct and simple?

Or is this brushing up against a limiting barrier of conformity guidance and allowance?

Is Life really just a dance after all? Is the Hokey Pokey really what it’s all about?

How much is the reader aware about the continuity of a character’s name and their description?

Is that a usage? What is the sound of a Red-Herring?

Further Reading

Brown, Dave J., and Michael Proulx. “Touching Bouba, Hearing Kiki. Image Resolution and Sound Symbolism in Visual-to-Auditory Sensory Substitution.Multisensory Research 26, no. 1–2 (2013): 66–66.

Cho, Peter. “Takeluma: An Exploration of Sound, Meaning, and Writing.MFA Thesis, UCLA Department of Design, Media Arts, 2005.

Das, Susmita. “Visualizing Words.” Retrieved, 2011.

Dinnissen, Karlijn, and Max M. Louwerse. “The Sound of Valence: Phonological Features Predict Word Meaning.” In CogSci, 2015.

Doizaki, Ryuichi, Saki Iiba, Takashi Abe, Takayuki Okatani, and Maki Sakamoto. “Product Recommendation Method Based on Onomatopoeia Expressing Texture.” In The Second Asian Conference on Information Systems, 610–17, 2013.

Glivenkova, O. A., E. V. Evenko, and V. I. Kopelnik. “SOUND SYMBOLISM AS A MEANS OF CREATING SYMBOLIC SOUND METAPHOR,” n.d.

Hirata, Sachiko, Mamiko Arata, and Yoko Suzuki. “Universality and Language-Specificity of Sound Symbolism,” n.d.

Kagitani, Tatsuki, Mao Goto, Junji Watanbe, and Maki Sakamoto. “Sound Symbolic Relationship between Onomatopoeia and Emotional Evaluations in Taste.” In Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, Vol. 36, 2014.

Kim, Hyun-Woong, Hosung Nam, and Chai-Youn Kim. “Nasal Sounds Are Lighter and More Yellowish than Glottal Sounds: Cross-Modal Associations between Consonant Sounds and Colors.” 한국심리학회지: 인지 및 생물 32, no. 1 (2020): 85–99.

Lockwood, G. F., Peter Hagoort, and Mark Dingemanse. “Synthesized Size-Sound Sound Symbolism,” 2016.

MAIOCCHI, Marco, and Margherita PILLAN. “The Human Emotional System and the Creativity in Design.A Matter Of Design. Making Society Through Science And Technology, 2014, 881.

McCormick, Kelly, Jeeyoung Kim, Sara M. List, and Lynne C. Nygaard. “Sound to Meaning Mappings in the Bouba-Kiki Effect.” In CogSci, 2015:1565–70, 2015.

Postma-Nilsenová, Marie, Constantijn Kaland, and Leonoor Oversteegen. “The Power of Words in the Brain: Systematic Sound-Meaning Associations in Novel and Existing Words.” In Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, Vol. 35, 2013.

Reedijk, Fabiënne, Stefano Scola, Niccolò Minetti, Niveditha Subramaniam, and Giovanni Cassani. “

Nomen Est Omen: Fictional Characters’ Names Encode Polarity, Gender and Age,” n.d.

Revill, Kathleen Pirog, Laura L. Namy, and Lynne C. Nygaard. “Eye Movements Reveal Sensitivity to Sound Symbolism Early and Late in Word Learning.” In CogSci, 1967, 2015.

Shukla, Aditya. “The Kiki-Bouba Paradigm: Where Senses Meet and Greet.Indian Journal of Mental Health 3, no. 3 (2016): 240–52.

Simurra, Ivan Eiji, Patrícia Vanzella, and João Ricardo Sato. “Timbre and Visual Forms: A Crossmodal Study Relating Acoustic Features and the Bouba-Kiki Effect,” n.d.

Uchida, Marin, Abhishek Pathak, and Kosuke Motoki. “Smelling Speech Sounds,” n.d.


[1] "There Is No Such Thing as Conscious Thought - Scientific American." 20 Dec. 2018, https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/there-is-no-such-thing-as-conscious-thought/. Accessed 28 Dec. 2021.

[2] "'We can implant entirely false memories' | Science | The Guardian." 3 Dec. 2003, https://www.theguardian.com/science/2003/dec/04/science.research1. Accessed 28 Dec. 2021.

[3] "False memory - Wikipedia." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_memory. Accessed 28 Dec. 2021.

[4] "People Will Believe Almost Anything." https://hilo.hawaii.edu/~ronald/310/Loftus_Disneyland.htm. Accessed 28 Dec. 2021.

[5] "Fictional Characters' Names Encode Polarity, Gender and Age." https://amlap2021.github.io/program/134.pdf. Accessed 28 Dec. 2021.

[6] "Bouba/kiki effect - Wikipedia." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bouba/kiki_effect. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021.

[7] "What is the Bouba/Kiki effect and what does it mean for the origins of ...." 28 Nov. 2021, https://www.euronews.com/culture/2021/11/28/what-is-the-bouba-kiki-effect-and-what-does-it-mean-for-the-origins-of-language. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021.

[8] "What's in a Name? - jstor." https://www.jstor.org/stable/4386656. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021.

[9] "Richard Jeni: Platypus Man (TV Special 1992) - IMDb." https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0236682/. Accessed 29 Dec. 2021.



Check out Notion. It's free for personal use

What Kind of Mood Do You Write In?

Looking across the storyscape, right before I begin to write. Just at the point of visualization (because I have to type). Have to remain present. Keep it loose. Don't let it drag me into a deep morning of daydreams and what-ifs. Won't get anything written then. 

There is a tension there, at that balance of the optics. The kind of tension that gets your leg shifting. Gets into the skin. Sizzles. You want to keep it close, but like the eye-candy, this tension needs to be maintenanced for distance and intent.

Some things just run off and don't tell you. Don't say a word. Just sulk out the backdoor -- some even leave their key. On the stair. Like it be ritual or something. Like you were watching when they snuck out. 

Then you spend three hours searching for the remote because they left it in their room again. You're glad they're gone. Now you can get some sleep instead of being up and down all night looking for them because they didn't say anything and you think they're dead or something. Right? Shit sucks. And they steal the remote. Not yelling. Just saying. 

Hell, I don't even watch tv. Haven't for twenty years. It's been a few months now. I can't even get the energy up to go all-caps for the tv. Yeah so it starts somewhere around here. Bit nostalgic. You stumble across a cool word: nobodaddy. Bit worked up with no energy to do anything about it. Got the right glasses on. Nobodaddy? Not too bright. Not too dark. Now we can write. 


 



Running Singing Strand Bird On The Shore

I could sit for hours listening to the “bubbling” of the strand-bird; but that’s because I am melancholy. If I weren’t melancholy I’d hardly like it, I think. The tide’s at ebb and the rock-pools are full of water. Beyond is space—the yellow of the sand and the grey of the sky—and the pipe-note “bubbling” between. A strange, yearning sound, like nothing one hears in towns; bringing one into touch with the Infinite, and deep with the melancholy -- the song and my own.

It is not that the day be worse than any other. Heads on necks have their own beats and rhythms which have nothing to do with the day, the year or the hour. Will I ever forgive being who I am? It is my one and lonely success. The truth is, we don't like the Truth. Truth has very few friends, and those are suicides. Bubbling notes and sigh-to-silence the wave reached up on the shore. The pipe-note yearns as it runs along the vanishing foam edge. Then back it runs, having forgotten its watch. Or wallet. One or-error-the-other. 

Strange how the bubbling juxtaposes the darkening gray infinity rushing out past the strand bird, past where it runs to toss, now tossing my attention against the absent. Not even abandon is out there. 

There is just -- nothing out there. That nothing pulls when looked at too long. The bubbling pipe becomes a keen, then a wail. But if you do not raise your eyes you will think that you are the highest point. That this is all. No allfather. Just Blakes's nobodaddy. Just you and nobodaddy and nothing. Then the wave sighs away, and the strand bird runs and pulls you away. 

I hope I'll be a memory. 

Yes, I will try to be.  Because I believe that not being is arrogant. 




When It Feels Right: Emotional Connection

Most of the time I'm exploring the topic of Emotional Connection, it is for writing fiction, and making that connection with the reader -- a connection which will allow the reader to slip into immersion with the story -- what those in Psychology call Narrative Transportation. 

I'm caught in both worlds today. I've just completed my novel and in the editing phase, but this novel is being published under my name, not a clients/ghostwritten. 

To experience narrative transportation, the audience should experience empathy with the characters. Social psychologists Geoff Kaufman and Lisa Libby argue that when audiences take the perspectives and experiences of the characters in the story they “lose themselves and assume the identity of the character, adopting the character’s thoughts, emotions, goals, traits, and actions and experiencing the narrative as though they were that character.” 

As postulated by Green and Brock (2002), imagery indeed seems to play an important role in transportation. Using a more fine-grained measure of perceived imagery ability than in previous research (Green et al., 2008), the present study demonstrated that transportation into a narrative and identification with its protagonist vary across different media depending on recipients’ perceived ability to generate vivid mental imagery. 

“Transportation effects work through reducing counterarguing, creating connections (identification and liking) with characters and increasing perceptions of realism and emotional involvement,” say Green and Clark.

Green and Clark provide three ways narrative transportation works to change beliefs:
  • People perceive less intent to persuade.
  • People identify with and like the characters and then adopt the beliefs of those characters.
  • People may remember the events in a story as their own.(In an Aside, below, there is a link to an article on this phenomena of False Memories)


All that means to me is I can go further with the story, and keep my reader with me. 



Now let's switch gears and look at what the minds of Copywriting have to say on this subject. They don't call it Narrative Transportation, they call it Emotional Connection/Branding. 

The Ten Commandments of Emotional Connection:

i. From Consumers → to People
Emotional branding allows companies to create a relationship with its consumers that is based on mutual respect. This approach would help potential consumers to have a positive attitude towards the product, creating an attraction between the brand and the items being sold without being forced to purchase.

ii. From Product → to Experience
Emotional branding creates an emotional memory between the buyer and the product as a form of connection that goes beyond need. Need is based on price and convenience, buying the product experience has an added value to it which money won’t be able to buy.

iii. From Honesty → to Trust
Emotional branding builds trust. It is one of the fundamental values of a brand which requires genuine effort from the company. This brings total comfort to customers and it gives advantage to the company because the buyers will put their brand as one of their top choices.

iv. From Quality → to Preference
Emotional Branding helps a brand become a consumer’s preference. The quality is an essential factor to stay in business, however achieving preferential status by consumers mean that the product made a real connection with its users.

v. From Notoriety → to Aspiration
Emotional Branding shapes a business to be an aspiration instead of simply being known. Brand awareness creates familiarity with its users but to be attain success, the brand must be able to inspire the user to be desired.

vi. From Identity → to Personality
Emotional Branding teaches a company to build its personality to create a lasting impact on users. Brand personalities form charismatic attitude that would trigger positive emotional response towards the brand.

vii. From Function → to Feel
Emotional Branding makes experience as an important factor in creating brand identity. The product may perform according to its practical function, but emotional branding enables the user to have a deeper emotional experience while using the product.

viii. From Ubiquity → to Presence
Similar with having an experience, emotional branding promotes brand presence as it also creates an impact on potential users, ensuring a permanent connection with people.

ix. From Communication → to Dialogue
Emotional branding encourages to have a conversation with its target audience. It means that there should be a dialogue from the company relayed to the target audience via personal message to share actual experiences with the product.

x. From Service → to Relationship
Emotional branding helps create a special relationship between the brand and its loyal users. Creating a relationship with the consumers is perhaps the most important aspect of emotional branding because the company intends to have a deep connection with its customers and it will create an important bond among its users.
~ As Listed by Marc Gobé

Emotional branding uses the consumer's ability to process messages to promote a significant feeling associated with the brand.The two types of processing that a person can use to comprehend branding are Active Processing, which is learning that happens when deep, attentive processing is being applied, or, Implicit processing, which is when meaning can be processed without awareness. Emotional branding is quite complex, in that a person can interpret a brand image through attentive processing, but once their emotions are provoked, the meaning that they take from the brand image can be implicitly processed, or in other words, subconsciously created.
An example of this could be music playing in a store to create a subconscious mood.

There are multiple techniques for achieving an emotional response to a brand. The first, and perhaps the most complicated method is by attaching the brand to a certain set of ideological values. This works best when the advertiser has done substantial amounts of research on the demographic audience, knowing what values and ideas will trigger an emotional response and connection to the brand. The values can be embedded into the brand through images and language. An example of this would be the family values and essence of childhood and bonding portrayed in Walt Disney World Ads.
Emotional branding uses a series of themes and symbols to create meaning for a consumer. In this sense, "theme" means a concept or story line that is present throughout an ad, and if integrated well-enough, throughout the brand. A "symbol" is representative of the theme. Vance Packard's The Hidden Persuaders suggests that the symbol represents a promise and consumers buy the promise. The text reads, "The cosmetic manufacturers are not selling Lanolin, they are selling hope. We no longer buy oranges, we buy vitality. We do not buy just an auto, we buy prestige."

As suggested in Edward Bernays' The Engineering of Consent, Themes must appeal to human motivations in order to be successful. Motivation lies deep with a person's subconscious desires to achieve or meet certain goals. Bernays suggests that there is an extensive list of factors that drive motivation based on both ideological values and personal experience.

There are a few techniques used with symbolism. The first is making the theme and symbol of a brand continuously publicized. The second technique is making sure that the theme and symbol hold substance and promote a specific idea about the company. The company symbol needs to be adaptable to a changing society while standing firmly as a set of values.

Symbols can represent multiple themes simultaneously, as suggested by Bernays. For example, a kitten can represent both playfulness and comfort. Symbols provide a promise for a sense of fulfillment associated with their brand. Vance Packard highlights the eight hidden needs that consumers have that themes and symbols attempt to sell. The eight needs are as follows:
    • Emotional security
    • Reassurance of worth
    • Ego-gratification
    • Creative outlets
    • Love objects
    • Sense of power
    • Sense of roots
    • Immortality
These needs, which are subconsciously emotion-based, serve as a foundation for emotional branding and allow marketers to create a self-fulfilling prophecy when it comes to consumer needs. People want to fulfill these needs, and advertisers promote the need to fulfill these needs in a perpetual cycle.

A second method of emotional branding is making a literal statement about a product and its association to emotion. An example of this can be seen in a 1966 Hamlet Cigar ad that states “Happiness is a cigar called Hamlet.”  This associates the brand with a particular emotion in the most literal way possible.

A third method of association to emotion is giving the consumer an emotional reaction to an ad, or in our case it would be a blurb. An example of this in advertising could be calming music playing simultaneously with images of people enjoying the product. This method works best when irrational emotions are evoked. For example, playing somber music with images of people struggling without the product would create an irrational connection to the product by playing on the consumer’s sadness. In one way, the brand creates a positive connotation with itself, in another, the brand creates a negative connotation of life without the product. 

It is important to note that emotional branding is something that comes with time and long standing presence. For example, attachment of the specific emotion of “nostalgia” to the Kodak brand of film, “bonding” to the Jim Beam bourbon brand, and “love” to the McDonald’s brand are built over time. Through repetition of these themes and symbols, these brand names have reached brand euphoria, where meaning no longer needs to be created, as enough branding has been done to solidify the brand image.


References

Green, M. C., & Clark, J. L. (2013). Transportation into narrative worlds: implications for entertainment media influences on tobacco use. Addiction, 108(3), 477–484

Kaufman, G. F., & Libby, L. K. (2012). Changing beliefs and behavior through experience-taking. Journal of personality and social psychology, 103(1), 1. Vezzali, L., Stathi, S., Giovannini, D., Capozza, D., & Trifiletti, E. (2015). The greatest magic of Harry Potter: Reducing prejudice. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 45(2), 105–121.

Galinsky, A. D., & Moskowitz, G. B. (2000). Perspective-taking: decreasing stereotype expression, stereotype accessibility, and in-group favoritism. Journal of personality and social psychology, 78(4), 708.

Johnson, D. R., Jasper, D. M., Griffin, S., & Huffman, B. L. (2013). Reading narrative fiction reduces Arab-Muslim prejudice and offers a safe haven from intergroup anxiety. Social Cognition, 31(5), 578–598.

Green, M. C. (2004). Transportation into narrative worlds: The role of prior knowledge and perceived realism. Discourse processes, 38(2), 247–266.


Further Reading







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