Linguistic Funk

Studying linguistics and applying it in education makes me look at the world of language with amusement and wonder. Today, I had on Cafe Disco, an episode of The Office. Michael announces to the other workers that “funk is the problem and the solution.”

Funk is the problem and the solution.

– Michael Scott

It’s funny that in English we use funk as a descriptor for feeling low, as in “she’s in a funk.” Or it’s a word for stench, as in “this laundry room has a strange funk.” But we also use funk to describe an upbeat type of music or a laid-back, easy feeling. In the 1960’s, the word even took on the meaning of “fine, stylish, excellent” (Online Etymology Dictionary).

We call this linguistic reference, when we are looking at the various ways that one word references various different real-world objects, people, or ideas. Funk as a depressing feeling is the problem; funk as fun music is the solution. The observation on linguistic reference was rather intelligent for The Office’s Michael Scott.

The quote reminded me of my own linguistic funk. I tried to write a chapter a day for a novella and then got debilitating back pain that kept me away from my computer as much as possible.

Maybe I just needed some funk.

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