Sentences that get things done.

In "Recovering the Vernacular" (2014) Thomas Fitzgerald makes the case for recovering vernacular language from its enclosure and subsumption under the grammar of governance. link

Fitzgerald locates the vernacular on the side of local knowledge, common sense, everyday life and "ordinary people". The exemplary form of vernacular language that he examines is the proverb.

Proverbs are examples of resilient programming that get about without authorial signature. Some might have a vague provenance (especially in religious texts), but in general they work like vernacular paths: shaped by local or common usage, among people who never meet or agree on their form, but simply pass on what they heard if what they heard seems useful to them.

Because this is how vernacular language is fashioned, it's also how it changes over time, and as it changes, changes the way the world becomes thinkable. Fitzgerald's argument is that if idiosyncratic, localised, purposive or creative vernacular language is extinguished by the rational grammar of governance (of the algorithm, of quantification, of big data), this capacity for change will be overwhelmed. In this way he sees vernacular language as fundamental to democracy.

The relevance to SFW is that vernacular language is both capable of sustaining and amplifying personal narrative and yet does not depend on authorial celebrity or citation. Vernacular language is available to be borrowed, forked, repurposed, and so becomes a practice of collaboratively creating sentences that get things done.


"Loosely bounded, semiautonomous realms of language and consciousness continue to circle each other. Regardless of the locale, when a language in use changes through internal drift or by borrowing or new values, some ways of viewing and knowing otherness shift in response, or may be put aside, neglected. As that continues, some thoughts over time become harder to think and to say, or, if said, to be heard. Eventually, crowded-out perspectives, downgraded terms, and left-behind assumptions retreat to obscure records (available to a resolute few), while others come forward. Even if the substantive out-there has not itself changed very much, people will in time share and know a different world, as convincing as the earlier one."