Sunday, March 29, 2020

Punctum, punctum, punctum

Mike over at ToP ruined a perfectly good post by mentioning punctum in it, and then by citing contemporary usage of it! Horrors!

I have decided to throw in the towel on this one. Punctum means the eye-catching detail that makes me like the picture and I suppose then studiom must mean everything else?

This is contemporary usage, the word has come to mean this, and I will allow that it's a much more useful meaning that the one Barthes proposed, which I have (brilliantly, natch) argued is a meaning more or less unique to Roland Barthes.

What gets my goat here is that Barthes is going to continue to be credited with this.

It is as if a fellow suggested placing a slice of cheddar cheese on a graham cracker, and on top of that a freshly toasted marshmallow which slightly melts the cheese, producing an incomprehensibly disgusting snack. Because the fellow was fond of circumlocution, and thus near impossible to read, cheese was widely misunderstood as chocolate and now this idiot is, somehow, credited with inventing the s'more. Which he did not.

But there doesn't seem to be anything to be done about it.


  1. Interesting fact of the day: Roland Barthes invented the s'more. I read it on the internet.

    1. The elements of the s'more have no flavor. They acquire the illusion of flavor only through their relationships with the other facets of the s'more. A marshmallow is a meaningless white blob, only by touching and ultimately merging to a degree with the melted chocolate does it acquire its sweetness, its vaguely vanilla-like flavor.

      Ectera. This whole essay is about 18,000 words long, but you get the drift.

  2. Annoying, isn't it? But, as you say, in the end ignorant usage wins over pedantry every time. My favourite example is the word "livid", linguistically superglued to the word "scar" and, figuratively, to the emotional state of anger. But what colour is that scar? Look it up...


    1. I did look it up some time ago (at your behest, in another context!) and was gobsmacked.

      I also urge all and sundry to experience the strangeness. Look it up!