On Language, Images, and “Reality”

For this Blogpost, I want you to consider the ways in which the language we use shapes the way we think and, in turn, I’d like you to ponder the deeper “truths” of an image of your choosing.  So, to practice both types of applied critical thinking, I want you to write a thoughtful Blogpost that is at least two paragraphs long.  Your first paragraph(s) should tackle the issue of language and reality, and the second paragraph(s) should address the “reality” of a particular image.  More specifically, here is what you should do for both parts:

Part One:  For this section, I want you to demonstrate that language does indeed serve to limit and/or shape our understanding of the world.  To do so, you may well have to get a little bit creative to come up with a suitable subject, and then make sense out of it.  To choose your topic, you might take a cue from our recent readings.  Thus, your discussion might do such things as:  examine “the use of metaphor” in a specific cultural discourse; explore “the invention” of a new term for a particular social phenomenon; assess the impact of the PC “word police” on modern language; consider the controversial “meaning of a word” in a particular usage or context; comment upon the distortion of “reality” in the language of politicians; address the ways in which vagaries of legal language might impact criminal trial proceedings; compare the impact of a translation or discuss the challenges of “code-switching” for a second-language speaker.  Once you have chosen your topic, your job is to illustrate the linguistic phenomenon in question and draw some logical conclusions about it.  A nice way to imagine this investigation, perhaps, is to see it as “uncovering the iceberg” – going deeper to illustrate ways in which the “reality” of the world as seen in various linguistic circumstances is merely just “the tip of the iceberg” and a more complex story remains somehow “beneath the surface.”

Part Two:  In the second section of your discussion, I want you to find and examine a visual image that somehow makes an argument, and that you deem to be interesting. By “interesting,” I mean that the image/video in question should have a degree of sophistication – it should be intriguing somehow and potentially effective at (persuasively) reaching its audience.  The visual “text” you choose to examine is entirely up to you. But, here are some general ideas of the kinds of visual resources you might choose to explore: a poster, photograph, political flyer, a piece of art, public graffiti, an Instagram image or Facebook post, or a comic strip.   Once you’ve chosen your visual image, your task is to explore and explain how the image works to persuade its audience.  In other words, your brief account will “interpret” the meaning of the image and explain how that idea is conveyed.  To do so, you might consider:  what is the image arguing, and how is the image making that argument through rhetorical appeals and the careful positioning and selection of different parts and details.

13 thoughts on “On Language, Images, and “Reality”

  1. The distortion of “reality” in the language of politicians demonstrates how language shapes how people understand the world. For example, American politicians reacted to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi in December 2018. Democrats and Republicans are reacting how Saudi Arabia caused this incident. Those reactions tell us how Saudi Arabia killed Khashoggi. President Donald Trump seemed kind of indifferent, which tells us he didn’t believe it was true. Politicians use language to distort reality to achieve their goals.

    The classic Uncle Sam poster was used during World War I and Word War II. The poster was used to promote people to join the U.S. Army. He singles out the viewer, saying “I Want You for U.S. Army.” Uncle Sam is authoritative and powerful. The text in the poster reinsures the power of Uncle Sam. He’s also patriotic, shown by the colors and designs that he wears – red, white, blue, and stars.

    • The distortion of “reality” in the language of politicians demonstrates how language shapes how people understand the world. For example, American politicians reacted to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi in December 2018. Democrats and Republicans reacted differently how Saudi Arabia addressed to this situation. For Example, Democrat Diane Feinstein said because of what happened she is not going to support the future sale of arms to Saudi Arabia (Collins and Gauoette, 2018). President Donald Trump said to the press that he wasn’t going to punish anyone because of the oil prices in Saudi Arabia would raise taxes in the United States. President Donald Trump seemed kind of indifferent, which tells us he didn’t believe the killing was the governments fault. Politicians use language to distort reality to achieve their goals.

      The classic Uncle Sam poster was used during World War I and World War II. The poster was used to promote people to join the U.S. Army. Uncle Sam singles out the viewer, saying “I Want You for the U.S. Army.” Uncle Sam is authoritative and powerful. The text in the poster reassures the power of Uncle Sam. He’s also patriotic, shown by the colors and designs that he wears – red, white, blue, and stars. The colors that he wears shows that it is related to the American flag, which shows how Uncle Sam supports the United States government. It’s important to know about this because he wants people to fight for their country.

  2. Language for me especially was difficult to comprehend. Having to learn two languages, Spanish and English, at the same time caused a lot of confusion for me as a child. I had to learn at a very young age how translations and words in general can often be misinterpreted, used incorrectly, and sometimes very confusing. For example, if one were to say” I broke my crown” in Spanish it translates to “rompi mi corona”. Which could mean you either broke your crown or you broke an adult beverage called corona. Context is something very important in all aspects of language. Not only that but in Spanish you have to translate most things back words, like red hair doesn’t become ” rojo cabello” it becomes “cabello rojo”. I didn’t understand why, it’s just the way native Spanish speaking and Spanish countries do things.
    What I chose to examine is a movie poster for Avengers: Infinity War. Taking out all of the knowledge I have from seeing the previous movies and focusing on the image itself just by looking at it alone. A lot of distinguished character are displayed like Hulk, Iron Man, Spider-Man, etc. The biggest and dead center in the poster is a man that people who don’t read comic book won’t exactly know but can tell will be the antagonist of the whole film. All these great heroes surround this one entity, you can tell that this threat is big, thus this movie will be equally as big. Clearly this was made for an audience who either love marvel films or love marvel comics, either way this poster helps make both parties very happy by bringing these character to life in this poster.

  3. Every highschool student is required to take a language at some point in time. Usually this is a second language and not one they are familiar with or speak daily. When I was in school I chose to take Latin which was one of my most difficult classes. I found it challenging to translate from Latin to English and vice versa. What I couldn’t understand was why when I was translating it wasn’t correct word for word. Well eventually I realized even though I was trying to say the same thing these two different languages had different rules. For example, in Latin when translating a word you had to keep in mind the case, number and gender of a word. So say you were trying to say the boy threw the ball, you would have to add in other words and change the order of what you were trying to say in order to translate correctly.

    One ad I found persuasive was a Coca Cola ad. In the advertisement there is a picture of two people laughing and holding onto each other while drinking coke. Then next to them in big bold red letters it says “ Happiness. Coca Cola. #openhapiness.” Suggesting that people who drink Coca Cola are happy so if you drink Coca Cola you’ll be happy too. I also find this to be an example of a hasty generalization, if the people in the ad are happy drinking coke and the ad is telling me if I drink coke I’ll be happy then I should drink coke because it must make me happy.

  4. Growing up, my mother’s side of the family spoke Spanish majority of the time, I picked up most of it and learned more as I took a Spanish class in High School. By taking that class I noticed I was translating everything all wrong. For example, in Spanish, they say, “mi color favorito es el azul”, translating that phrase in English it says my color favorite is blue, which does not make any sense because in English we say my favorite color is blue. On my father’s side of the family, my grandmother would teach me more about our background and help me learn different languages, including German. I was unfamiliar with this language because it is not my first language more so than Spanish. I found it, challenging to translate, because some words can mean something else in English. For example; in English, we use “gift” as getting a present for a holiday, birthdays, etc., but in German “gift” means poison causing people to die in many ways. Putting words or phrases with context is very important while learning a new language because words can be switched around and mean different things.

    I found a persuasive ad about the Maybelline makeup brand. In the advertisement, the woman was doing in her makeup on an airplane to show how easy it is to apply. The makeup is very natural, and it shows how pretty you can look. The Maybelline brand has a slogan of “Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline”. This shows how natural you can look with their makeup; no one can tell you have it on. The advertisement is trying to persuade all viewers because it can be used on all skin tones and ages, with the effect of making you look natural.

  5. Throughout my ten years in grammar school I took spanish class once a week. Trying to learn a language once a week in a class of 30 kids is almost impossible. I decided when I got to high school that I would try French. I had that class everyday for 80 minutes with only 5 other girls. The amount of French I had learned in one week had already surpassed the amount of Spanish I learned in 10 year. When learning a language you need to learn pronunciations, and most importantly how to structure the sentence. When translating sentences from English to French it doesn’t always translate word for word. Phrases we have in English can be very confusing such as “Break a leg” before a performance. It means good luck rather than actually break a leg. Another example is “nice to meet you” in English but in French they say “enchanté” which actually means “I am enchanted to meet you” but we wouldn’t say that.
    The visual text I analyzed was a poster in black and white. It is a hand holding a pack of Marlboro cigarettes but the thing that stands out are the brightly colored crayons inside the pack instead of cigarettes. On the top of the poster it says “Do you want them to take after everything you do?”. At the bottom it then says “Quit Today”. The text on the poster is in a font that appears to be a child’s handwriting. When I saw this poster I interpreted it as a message to parents who smoke. They are being told to quit before the child grows up and decides to smoke because they grew up watching their parent do it.

  6. Language definitely serves to shape our understanding of the world we live in.
    Something that seems like a simple phrase to one person could mean something different to the next. Depending on where we are raised determines how we view the world through the language we use. Language is a method of human communication that shapes our understanding of the world around us.There is a large variety of languages in the world which means their is a large variety of perspectives of the world. A small example of this would be the phrase “fish and chips”. In England when someones says “fish and chips” they are referring to the national dish as we know in America as fried fish and a side of french fries. Differently in America when talking about the same dish, “fish and chips” would mean fish and chips,a thin sliced typically potato made crisp eaten as a snack. Two countries interpret the same phrase as two different things: chips and french fries. Where one is raised determines what you define in this instance “fish and chips” as. When in reality no one is right or wrong, it just depends on where you grew up.

    The image is trying to persuade people to buy more Happy Meals. The flyer stands out through the use of color to attract kids to get their parents to buy them a Happy Meal. On the flyer it says “A smile in Every Box” this phrase is used to show how amazing happy meals are and how they can make you happy. They want people to think if you buy your kid a happy meal they will be happy. McDonalds has been selling happy meals for about 40 years, and they still have the same impact it once had years ago. Many people in America have had a Happy Meal at least once in their life. Ronald McDonald is a clown character used to persuade kids to buy the Happy Meals because he is a fun cheerful clown. He is full of spirit and happiness all kids look up to him,so if he tell kids to buy Happy Meals to be happy kids will want it. They also draw kids in by adding a toy in the box to really make kids want to get a Happy Meal. You don’t have to like McDonalds but you ask your parent to buy you one just for the toy inside. McDonalds successful uses this flyer to catch kids eye and sell Happy Meals.

  7. Americans are so money oriented and our language reflects that. Money and time are so closely related in our culture which is why we say things like “time is money” and “times up”. We view time as an object which is why we take advantage of it. Which is why we don’t think of time as forever going and instead a rush to a point, when there really is no end unless your talking about death. In other cultures there is no such thing as running out of time. As long as they have a purpose and something to do they will continue. In Chinese culture time is only related to the present, there is no future tense which is why money isn’t everything in the Chinese culture. They do things as they come and are in no rush.

    In the Doritos commercial the husband is eating Doritos during the wife’s ultrasound and whenever he moves the chip the baby follow. When the husband throws the chip the baby flies out following the Dorito. This commercial is showing that Doritos are so good that they can’t be left at home for things as serious as an unreasoning appointment. Also that even baby’s love Doritos, so much that they will deliver themselves for a Dorito. This commercial is ants people to go out and buy Doritos because they are so good.

  8. Growing up I was taught to speak Spanish first and learned English in school and by talking to others. It was confusing at first because in English there is multiple ways to say certain things and only one way is correct based on the context. Like you could say “Have you gone to the store?”or “Did you go to the store?. Both work as a response, but in Spanish it’s only really “fuiste a la tienda?” And it translates to “you went to the store?” In learning the two languages I found that context was important and that I would think differently in each language. In Spanish things often translate over backwards and or don’t really have a word in English.

    For my visual image I choose a Skittles commercial. In this TV advertisement a boy has “skittles pox” which is a sickness and says that it’s really contagious and “deadly” and the girl that is with him is completely ignoring what he is saying and just grabs a skittle off of his skin and eats one. She then asks him if it’s contagious and he awkwardly says no and she is covered in skittles also. The ad means that someone can have some skittles and if that person shares you will become addicted and want skittles. The “skittles pox” wasn’t a sickness but the want of skittles and after you have one you’re addicted and want more.

  9. Growing up everyone has a different upbringing. People say and do things in different ways than I would go about doing it. For example, slang is something that is universal that everyone use but there are some people who also don’t understand slang at all. I could say “your buggin” or “your wildin” and they both mean the same thing. Both of these sayings mean that’s crazy or you’re crazy but you would only use one of the two sayings depending on the severity of the situation. It also depends on whom you’re talking to because you would never use slang in place like a job interview.

    Around the time of World War II, there were debates around women working all the time. There was one poster that always stuck out the most with me and it’s a poster of a woman flexing her muscles and the caption says, “We can do it”. I believe this poster stands for a symbol of hope to all women. This poster states that can do anything a man can do and sometimes even better than the men. The statement “ We can do it” was a symbol of hope to women because at the time women were only meant to be housewives not workers. If you think of the other side, you could also say the poster is also a symbol of disrespect. I say this because back then men were the sole providers for their families and it’s like the women slapping them in the face for trying to get jobs instead of letting their husband take care of them.

  10. I always thought it was interesting how language is always changing and evolving. The way that people speak and the words that people use change significantly over time. An example of this is when something new is invented, in 1940 we didn’t have terms for microwaves, computers or TVs. These inventions are created and then a word is made to define the inventions. Its not just inventions that change our language the way that we speak and the words that we choose change over time as we age, and culture evolves. Our language changes so slowly ever year that we do not even notice it most of the time. Language is constantly changing, and I am interested to see the way that it changes in the future and if I can notice the changing.

    An ad that stuck out to me was a Budweiser ad that aired on TV during the Superbowl. The add was of a dog riding on a carriage through a field of wheat and the ends of the commercial the camera zooms out and shows that there are wind turbines in the field then words come up saying the Budweiser is now brewing with wind power. The message that Budweiser is trying to get a across is that they are now a green company and rely on wind turbines to create their beer. Budweiser tries to persuade people with the dog on the carriage, the dog has no purpose for the commercial. The dog is used to catch people’s eye by being cute or attractive. Ads like this are made everyday the ads are getting a message across by using a distraction that attracts watchers.

  11. Language is a powerful thing that helps us interpret the world around us. An apple for us isn’t an apple to someone speaking Spanish. An apple only exsists in our reality. In high school I took American Sign Language for my language requirement. We learned how important using facial expressions are in their language. Facial expression could be the difference between a phrase making sense or not. I learned the value of different language.

    Something that is in the news a lot these days are MEGA hats. It’s interesting how many ways Make America Great Again can be interpreted. To some it is a symbol of patriotism, and to others they see threats of nationalism. I think that the people that interpret that hat as a threat are bending the language used on the hats. Through media the ultimate goal, I believe, is to make people think that the language on the hat is hateful. We live in an interesting time where any words could be spun and taken as “hate speech.”

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