Thursday, November 8, 2007


Conservative bloggers enjoy creating their own abbreviations. UBL stands for Usama Bin Laden; HRC stands for Hillary Rodham Clinton; MSM stands for mainstream media. It is interesting to note that these abbreviations come at a time when abbreviation as corporate branding is also flourishing. Somehow, corporations feel that using three letters together is a sign of cool that consumers will embrace. Are they right? Do consumers, or potential consumers, feel a tiny sense of inclusion, of being in the know, at recognizing the meaning of "MGD," especially if accompanied by a corporate logo? Could it be that this strategy of disappearing words, and turning them into visual logos, is just another deepening of niche marketing? Could it be too that this is another sign that language as a public sphere where all citizens meet is being further carved up into semi-private, consumer enclaves?

In any case, the bloggers too are creating cryptic signs out of words and names spelled out in letters. They are not cryptic to them, of course, or to anyone who spends more than five minutes reading them. Nonetheless, they are part of the creation of a linguistic community. In the case of UBL, the sense of uniqueness lies not only in the abbreviation, branding Bin Laden in a particular way, but also in using "U" rather than the more common "O". Here we see the influence of Fox News, which regularly puts banners like "UBL calls for overthrow of Musharraf" on its screens. Did these bloggers copy Fox's propensity to abbreviate? Or did Fox copy from them? In any case, we can see a small part in the development of a code, which is an enclave set within (and against) public, standard language.

If the argument is made that there is no objective Truth out there, the existence of parallel languages or codes makes this argument all the more compelling.

1 comment:

neilemac said...

Witnessed the first segment of FRONTLINE: 'Bush's Wars' | PBS in which there's a close-up of a memo on which is hand written by DR connecting Sadaam Hussein to the infamous day and "not only UBL!"

Check it out.

btw/ googled ubl to find out more and serendipitously discovered your site. Write on SITS.....

...Peace in all its dimensions!