Imagine jabberwocks in The Lodge | The Canberra Times


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Readers, if I asked you to imagine an imaginary creature called “albo”, what kind of beast do you think you would find? How could it compare and contrast in your mind with, say, Lewis Carroll’s imagined creature, the jabberwock? Is it just me or is it heartwarming to think of an albo in The Lodge, but alarming to think that this is the lair, perhaps the dark cave, of the country’s first jabberwock? I ask this question because having always found Anthony Albanese’s colloquial name “Albo” oddly endearing, I now find this phenomenon of word-sound association carefully discussed in a haunting new article from Discover magazine. “Some words sound like what they mean,” David Adam warns in his article How Names and Words Shape the Way We See People and Things. His essay was particularly exciting for your columnist with a new soon-to-be-born grandchild who needs a name. The parents of the impending bub dutifully asked for my suggestions. In his play, Adam discusses the sounds and shapes of the names we give to children. Sensing intuitively that the unborn baby was a girl (the parents had chosen not to find out her gender) and strongly feminist in my inclinations, I suggested Xena or Boadicea. Both names seem oddly appropriate for the famous warriors who wore them. But back to David Adam, who ponders, “I like the word bewildered … Just trying to say it out loud sums up its meaning (confused and bewildered) perfectly.” “[Then] the words “pop” and “whisper” sound as if they were ringing. Try to shout the word whisper. Weird, isn’t it? These onomatopoeic terms demonstrate what researchers call sonic iconicity, or a resemblance between the shape and meaning of a word. In a unique 2019 study, psychologists tested how volunteers interpreted the meaning of nonsensical words. . They asked the volunteers to assign characteristics and draw pictures of imaginary creatures, such as a horrible, a keex, a bomburg and a cougzer. ”The psychologists presented adjectives – round, spiky, large, small, male. and feminine – which the volunteers had to associate with 24 absurd words. The scientists then chose the first 12 words which obtained the most consistent and unique descriptions. Most people rated an ackie and a gricker as small, an ambous too round, an axittic and a cruckwic as sharp and a heonia as feminine. ”Beyond the eccentric experience, these findings have profound implications for the intera human side. Maybe you are soon to become a parent choosing a baby name. If people expect a horrible to be big and a keex to be small, what does that mean for every Pam, Dick or Harry? Could our names influence the way people see us and behave? “Yes,” says Penny Pexman, a psychologist at the University of Calgary in Canada. In a series of studies, she has shown that we tend to expect people to have specific character traits based on the way their name sounds. People associate the “round” sounds in people’s names with a set of characteristics, and names with “high” sounds with a very different set. Somehow, Anthony Albanese’s “Anthony” seems, like his Albo, reminiscent of “round” sounds (thus, to me, in the name / word Anthony, I hear lute music soft) and all the characteristics that “round” sounds remind me of. I find that when in the news and comments his name is “Albo” (my drawing of an albo depicts a round and kind grazing creature, a herbivore part a fluffy flightless albatross, part a bear in plush) Mr. Albanese, the man sort of takes a sort of harsh – to define the cuddly luster that he somehow doesn’t have when only talking about Mr. Albanese. On the other hand (can this have more to do with my political leanings than with iconicness? – no, of course not) Scott and our Prime Minister’s Scotty, as in “Scotty from Marketing”, have tough associations , jagged, jerky, carnivorous, very like what Lewis Carroll knew the mind would conjure from the sound of the name jabberwock. “Beware of the jabberwock,” Carroll warns us in his very sensitive absurd poem, knowing that the name of the jabberwock has already prepared the poem’s readers for fight or flight. Meanwhile, my grandson turns out, bless him, to be a boy. Although it would be a challenge for him to live his life with the name Boadicea, I urged his parents to call him something else. We feel that our babies born in these jabberwocky times and on this planet jabberwocked by climatic catastrophes will already have lives of sufficient challenges.



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