Zimmer on the Zuckerverb

Ben Zimmer talks about the “new language of Facebook” in The Atlantic today. You can also hear Zimmer talk about it on WCBS radio.

Zimmer gives some trenchant analysis of what Facebook is doing, while avoiding the doom-and-gloom “the English language is going to hell” commentary that is so often heard:

This is what happens when language is optimized for social data-mining rather than natural communication. “Mark read a book.” “Mark listened to a song.” “Mark hiked a trail.” “Mark reviewed a movie.” The sentences flashed on the big screen behind Zuckerberg as he laid out his verb-y vision. Though these sentences are technically in the active voice, they present us with an oddly cramped kind of “activeness,” in which we the users engage with a world of commodified objects through verbs of consumption. And to see one’s “life story” reduced to a series of such prefab activities in a personal timeline? Some might call that the apotheosis of consumer culture.

It’s well worth a read.

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