A personal example of Ostension

Begins 3:17pm

[SS My stomach is grumbling that’s why I butt in first, eventhough there is a queue of things/thoughts to be said.  There is an anxiety mulling about in my gut.  I think there’s a growing feeling of urgency as I am pushing the three texts of this PhD to a conclusion.  In the rush, I fear I will miss the joy of it.  In the end, I fear I will miss it.  The journey.  The gut still grumbles, but the other conversationalists are pushing forward with their thoughts.]

[OS During yesterday’s post I was remembering a time when I was sixteen years old working in my friend, Margaret’s, sister’s shop on Patrick Street in Cork.  Just outside the shop was a bus stop for an area called Gra na Brathair.  It was considered a ‘working class’ area with a friendly bunch of people with the thickest accents my little brain had ever heard.  Thick is not an accurate description.  Their voices rangled in a rhythm that seesawed up into high oscillating waves and then sharply downward into blips of noise strung out in bitty, almost inaudible, hums.  I couldn’t understand a thing that was said as people ran up to the counter to make their purchases, usually minutes before their bus pulled in.  Sometimes seconds before.  Strangely, it was usually the same one, two, three or combination of the following items:  10 Majors, an Icelol and a bag of Taytos.  I still cannot recite the accent, let alone write it.   What triggered the memory was the method I used to resolve the transaction was Ostension.  I would literally pick up the items and with hurried, excited nods of assent I would be given dirty rolled pound notes, so I could turn them round in time to get on the bus and home.  It seemed like the whole shop would be crammed with these indecipherable demands that threatened to crush me.  I still tire thinking about it.  Here I am years later, finding out the ‘meaning’ of Ostension in Eco’s A Theory of Semiotics.  How great is life! Gra na Brathair means ‘love of the brothers’ in Gaelic by the way. And I am lucky that I do.]

In expressions produced by ostension it may appear as though it is complicated and tangled distinguishing expression from referent.  (p 226)  But Eco produces an example that illustrates the clarity of such a distinction.  Suppose, he asks us to imagine, that there is a crowd of people with each individual holding a piece of bread, each of different shapes and sizes.  The crowd are all calling out for more.  What Eco notes is that the difference between the people disappear.   The pieces of bread are stripped of their physically detectable properties and the bread becomes a sign.(p 226)

“When an object is selected as a whole to express its class, this constitutes a choice of example”. (p 226)  When an object is selected as a part of the whole then it is considered a sample.  An example, of this kind of sample, is a tailor who presents a piece of fabric that will be used in the total garment he/she produces.

Goodman (1968) discusses in his work (cited by Eco on p 226) the idea of a sample being a “sample of samples”.  For example in linguistics, “a polysyllabic word can be taken as the example of the general class of polysyllabic words.”

[SS Ok.  Too many people walking in telling me ‘they are sorry they are distracting me”.  I will take these multiple meanderings as a sign it’s time to call it a day.]

[OS But we must remember:  “There’s a long way to go.  And a short way to get there.” (Anonymous man overheard in a coffee shop in Clonakilty, Co Cork, 16 March 2016)]

[SS Back to my opening feelings:  urgency and anxiety grumbling like an elephant’s stomach.  Sometimes I feel as though my whole head is one Phd thought – an example of a general class of Phd thoughts.  In short, it seems, it’s all I really think about.]

Ends 4: 29pm

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