Good vs Bad

Begins 2:43pm

Restarted 2:59 pm [SS because the first beautiful batch of words was lost to a cyber-squid.  Can’t think of anything else to call the sudden jerky loss of Internet contact followed by disappearance of my work!]

Eco argues on p283 for rules that can help us distinguish between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ metaphors and metonymies.  He offers a tentative solution where the markers are identical, peripheral and characteristic of the sememe.  The Romans established an interdependent metonymous use of <<gladiator>> and <<death-seekers>>, which offers an ‘inventive’ metonymy that increases awareness of the semantic entity ‘gladiator’. ( 283)

Tracing the underlying metaphorical and metonymous connections reveals “fertile contradictions” throughout the whole gamut of the Global Semantic Field. (p 284)

[SS Reminds me of the Dorothy Parker quipe:  “She ran the whole gamut of emotions from A to B”.  She was funny.]

Rhetorical substitution, Eco goes on to say, establishes further connections that can be short, sudden and unpredictable.  This explains why it may appear to the addressee that a rhetorical figure of speech may appear as a ‘sudden revelation’, when in fact that sender simply saw, and crossed, a path that his/her knowledge of the “semantic organization entitled him to”. (p 284)  The sender saw many possibilities and chose one that appears to the addressee vague and indistinct.  In this way the rhetorical process is “a way of upsetting acquired knowledge”. (p 285)

At times there is incompatibility of the codes, eventhough the rhetorical figure continues to operate.  This creates a feeling of unbalance that logicians use to claim that natural languates have no logic. (p 285)

Eco agrees that sign-production in natural languages “are without logic” (p 286) but rhetorical language does produce a kind of ‘fuzzy’ logic.  It allows for a kind of play in language where a substitution or a figure of speech can act as “a pleasantly ironic joke”. (p 286)  But what, asks Eco, if a figure such as <<bachelor>>, which usually connotes free, happy, and open to adventures, is really sad?  “A jocular figure of speech may thus release a discussion about whole areas of accepted values.” (p 286)

[SS Oh the poor little bachelor.  I thought they had all the fun.  It’s the poor old ‘spinsters’ that are supposed to be lonely, isolated, sad and expunged from society’s structures.  They don’t get to reel in the romantic catch.  Whereas, bachelors have their nets full.]

[OS That’s how the story goes, but as Eco is explaining, if you would give him the chance, rhetorical connotations are just values society chooses to express.]

Values can be hidden and manipulated.  What can start as a straightforward persuasive argument can quickly turn into an ‘ideological’ one.  Eco demonstrates the threshold between these two types of reasoning in a case study of how the value of <<sugar>> in the US changed through advertisement campaigns in 1969.  When dietetic foods were first released onto the market sugar was associated with fat and were replaced with the less fattening alternative, cyclamates.  But when a 1969 medical research program discovered that cyclamates could produce cancer they were removed as an ingredient in a range of dietetic foods.  Sugar was reinstated.  To stress the absence of cyclamates many foods were relabelled with the words “with sugar added”. This approach was accepted by consumers because as feedback showed, people thought it “Better fat than dead”. (p 288)

The sememic spectrum of sugar never changed.  It was still coded as fattening.  What happened was cyclamate acquired a new marker that of <<cancer>>.  The repositioning and idiotic notion that sugar acquired a positive status in comparison to cylamates happened through code-switching.  The emotional connotation was displaced and an ‘ideological’ argument replaced a fixed marker for sugar that then became conventionally accepted.

[SS So that’s how it happens.  Advertising and marketing execs must spend a lot of time studying the use of rhetoric!  Does that make them semioticians.  I should look up how much semiotic theory forms part of degrees in marketing?]

[OS Why bother?]

Ends [because we have had enough] 3: 38 pm

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