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15th June 2014

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The backstage language of human behaviour

Throughout Western society there tends to be one informal or backstage language of behaviour, and another language of behaviour for occasions when a performance is being presented. The backstage language consists of reciprocal first-naming, cooperative decision-making, profanity, open sexual remarks, elaborate griping, smoking, rough informal dress, ‘sloppy’ sitting and standing posture, use of dialect or sub-standard speech, mumbling and shouting, playful aggressivity and ‘kidding’, inconsiderateness for the other in minor but potentially symbolic acts, minor physical self-involvements such as humming, whistling, chewing, belching, and flatulence. The frontstage behaviour language can be taken as the absence (and in some sense the opposite) of this.

Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959)

Tagged: sociologybehaviourlanguagesocietypsychologyethologyErving Goffman

11th November 2011

Post with 24 notes

Look what they do with the wind

And look what they do with the wind! At first sight, you, poor human being, think that the storm is playing with the birds, like a cat with a mouse, but soon you see, with astonishment, that it is the fury of the elements that here plays the role of the mouse and that the jackdaws are treating the storm exactly as the cat its unfortunate victim. Nearly, but only nearly, do they give the storm its head, let it throw them high, high into the heavens, till they seem to fall upwards, then, with a casual flap of a wing, they turn themselves over, open their pinions for a fraction of a second from below against the wind, and dive—with an acceleration far greater than that of a falling stone—into the depths below. Another tiny jerk of the wing and they return to their normal position and, on close-reefed sails, shoot away with breathless speed into the teeth of the gale, hundreds of yards to the west: this all playfully and without effort, just to spite the stupid wind that tries to drive them towards the east. The sightless monster itself must perform the work of propelling the birds through the air at a rate of well over 80 miles an hour; the jackdaws do nothing to help beyond a few lazy adjustments of their black wings. Sovereign control over the power of the elements, intoxicating triumph of the living organism over the pitiless strength of the inorganic!

Konrad Lorenz, King Solomon’s Ring

Tagged: booksKonrad Lorenzwindnaturebirdsjackdawsethology