Saturday, December 17, 2005


Earlier in the fall our program hosted Tim Diggles, coordinator of the Federation of Worker Writers and Community Presses in Staffordshire, for a colloquium on working class writing/publishing.  I didn't get around to posting any notes after Diggles visited, and although I have a few lines about a range of things he talked about penciled into a composition notebook, I want to zero in on the thing Diggles mentioned that has been on my mind periodically ever since: wordwatching.

The wordwatcher, Diggles explained, is a common parliamentary role; in meetings of all sorts, one person is assigned the wordwatcher's role--to interrupt the casual flow of conversation with stasis questions (scroll down), primarily questions of definition: what do you mean by...? The wordwatcher (C. suggested Dictionarian) attends to terminological slippage, calls out for (folk) etymology, re-collects fanned-out usages, and does so with a potentially calm remove--a cool distance from the more heated interchanges (no, I'm not saying neutral position, and this doesn't always have to be the case...the wordwatcher could be more implicated, even po'ed, for example).  The point isn't to domesticate the meaning (or broadly officialize/standardize) as much as to make explicit tacit and unexplored nuances and differences, admit them to the discussion.

The wordwatcher's role interests me, even appeals to me as I think about teaching.  Why not designate wordwatchers as a way to emphasize contested or complex terms (with ties, of course, to stasis theory)?  This could work across several levels--from grad seminars to the FY course.  And I'm almost certain it's being done somewhere, perhaps under another name, but motivated by a similar set of interests.  I've also been thinking about how a wiki (i.e. the ww must be quick) would support wordwatching, especially in a course like WRT302: Digital Writing--the next course I'll be teaching at SU, coming in fall '06.  Wordwatching might be a good way to bring in the shared, ongoing formation of wiki content, talking about how they work, and so on, while also sharing the demands of keeping stasis questions fresh, continually a part of the conversation, etc.

Bookmark and Share Posted by at December 17, 2005 11:30 AM to Dry Ogre Chalking