Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Some thoughts on [profane] language

The use of language in local contexts is fairly interesting. As noted by Cetina and Bruegger, the expressions seem to come back to the body and sexual metaphors. Compare:

In particular, losses promote fear and perhaps greed and are expressed in a vocabulary that resounds with the emotions of perceived violence and attack. As a trader on the Zurich floor put it, the terms refer “basically [to] sex and violence and a lot of them seem to have to do with anal penetration.” The list that we accumulated included “I got shafted,” “I got bent over,” “I got blown up,” “I got raped,” “I got stuffed”/“the guy stuffed me,” “I got fucked,” “I got hammered,” and “I got killed.”

(Cetina & Bruegger, 2002 pg. 939-940)

…with:

The engineers waged a campaign against the messy, local subsoil mush as they did against the traditional cultures and the luxuriant jungle. Imagery of invasion and rape is prevalent in the scientific literature. Feminist studies have perhaps rendered it unsurprising that the ‘holes’ were ‘penetrated’ and Mother Earth forced to reveal her secrets. Schlumberger telegraphic code has a ‘fille’ as a hole of easy access and a ‘madame’ as one more difficult to penetrate. The overwhelmingly masculine ethos of the oil ‘fraternity’ naturally extended to the scientific and industrial work being done. The wonder is that such delicate measurements… could be taken in such as setting, which was certainly perceived by the drillers and the geophysicists as hostile.

(Bowker, 1994 pg. 93)


Bowker, G. C. (1994). Science on the run : information management and industrial geophysics at Schlumberger, 1920-1940. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Cetina, K. K., & Bruegger, U. (2002). Global microstructures: The virtual societies of financial markets. American Journal of Sociology, 107(4), 905-950.

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