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Today's quote:

Sunday, February 7, 2021

'Planet Word' - something cerebral for a quiet Sunday morning at home from the Oscar Wilde of our time


In a way only he can, Stephen Fry presents a mixture of learning, love of lexicon and humour in a five-part series about language. From locations across the world - including China, Sydney, Israel, Kenya, the east and west coasts of America and many European cities, Fry's 'Planet Word' journeys through the thousands of years since man first mastered speech, up to the cyber world of today with its html, codes and texting. With the help of linguists, scientists and geneticists, Fry attempts to discover whether we are anywhere near to beginning to understand the complexities of language.


Stephen Fry dissects our language in all its guises. He analyses how we use and abuse language and asks whether we are near to beginning to understand the complexities of its DNA. In this first episode, Stephen seeks to uncover the origins of human language and how and why we are the only species on the planet to have this gift.

Stephen argues that the way we speak defines us above all. Be it a national language, a regional dialect or even class variation - we interpret and define ourselves through our language. From markets in Kenya to call centres in Newcastle, Stephen charts the shifting patterns of lingua franca and the inexorable spread of Globish (Global English).

While not everyone approves of `bad' language, Stephen Fry learns that swearing plays an important role in human communication. He undergoes an MRI scan, discovering the parts of the brain associated with swearing - and meets a Tourette's sufferer and a stroke patient who swear they can't help using the f-word. Plus, Stephen and Brian Blessed participate in some experiments to examine how swearing can help relieve pain.

Stephen looks at the written word, starting with the earliest writing - cuneiform. As part of his exploration of the diversity of scripts, Stephen visits 106-year-old Mr Zhou, the inventor of the Chinese phonetic writing system called Pinyin, who relates how literacy increased four-fold after its introduction under Mao.

Storytelling has been with us as long as language itself and our desire to both entertain and explain has resulted in the flowering of language to describe every aspect of the human condition. Stephen asks just what makes a good story and why do some writers just do it better, exploring everything from Homer's epic to Shakespeare, PG Wodehouse, Tolkien, Orwell, Auden and Bob Dylan.


It's early Sunday morning. I've already fed the wild ducks by the pond, the two duck families who've made the jetty their home, and the king parrots, and also served the possum and her little joey in the possum penthouse breakfast in bed. I'm now going for a walk 'round the village TWICE!, and might even pop in at Terry's "River Cafe" for a cuppa and a chat and to hand him a booklet I found at Vinnies which might put him on the pathway to success ...


(for a shortcut to a successful business model, click here)


... before rejoining you here in listening to the inimitable Stephen Fry to ensure that in these pandemic times our mental health doesn't suffer.

Googlemap Riverbend


P.S. There is, of course, also the accompanying book which is available, as always, for free at www.archive.org. What a treat for sore eyes!

P.P.S. Needless to say, I've already ordered both the book and the DVD. 456 pages of reading pleasure and 291 minutes of listening pleasure!