Tuesday, February 24, 2009

I Saw the Sign, but My Eyes Remained Partially Closed

There's a building on a corner lot a couple blocks away from my apartment that I generally only pass if I take an alternate route home from campus. The building announces its presence with a large roadside sign that says:


Since I only passed it every so often, it was something of a conundrum to me, something to the extent of "why is there a car rental agency in such an out-of-the-way location?" It was not until I changed up my routine and passed the sign for several days in a row that I finally noticed that it was an apartment building, presumably founded by Isabel and Carlos, and not, in fact, a car rental place at all. But up until this point, I had really been, in interpreting the sign, acting as though car rentals really were involved in the building.

The main cause of this is surely the fact that the sign says, in so many letters "is a car rental." What is interesting to me, then, is that the "is a car" at the front of the sentence so greatly outweighed the "apartments" at the end. But at the same time, from my first reading of the sign, I could tell that something wasn't right, whether that had to do with the actual building in its actual location or in text of the sign. I suppose if it had been something more crucial to my own survival I might've spent more time figuring it out, but as it was I managed to carry around the insecurity about the sign for many months before finally figuring it out.

I'm not sure that I intend this post to be anything more than just what I think is an interesting anecdote, but if pressed, I suppose I'd say that my processing of this sign is an example which clearly demonstrates that there is a conceptual semantics which underlies the parsing of meaning-in-language, which is only important when I'm stuck talking to literati types that seem to think that "everything is language" and don't like it when I tell them that they're stupid. Oh well.


Blogger nate said...

I find that most people don't like it when I tell them that they're stupid.

I think my own experience also suggests that there's something deeply un-straightforward about how we process language; I have more faith in the world's cognitive scientists than in its critical theorists as far as eventually sussing out the details. At the moment I find it more intriguing, though, that your personal aesthetic can accommodate Ace of Base references in blog post titles.

2/24/2009 9:32 PM  

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