Sunday, July 26, 2009

Rachel wrestles with Rhetoric: What words work best for storytelling events?

The names of events suddenly became important with the possibility of the 2012 National Storytelling Conference to be held in Salt Lake City, UT.

I proposed to the National Storytelling Network that we change the name from "National Storytelling Conference" to something that had a global sound and invited more than professional storytellers.

Since we already have the International Storytelling Center, it seems that "world" would be better to use than "international" to avoid any confusions.

The word "storytelling" often conjures images of an old lady reading stories to preschoolers. When "storytelling" is then "story", then people will see the event as one that could fulfill their interests.

It is the last word for the new name of the National Storytelling Conference that baffles me.

While transcribing the "Mythical Storytelling Conference" discussion for Storytelling Linguistics, what should be on my mind but the importance of a name.

For a while, I loved the name "World Story Fair" to replace "National Storytelling Conference". I prefer to listen to many opinions. I found myself on the cell phone calling storytellers from Tennessee to Minnesota to California to Hawaii.

I discovered support for "World" and "Story", but different views were shared for the last word.

Yes, I will need to expand my mini survey. Of course, the vote ultimately comes upon the National Storytelling Network Board on July 31, 2009.

Most people wanted an event word that would reflect a gathering of story colleagues and professionals. That meant "Fair" could focus too much on the general public.

Sometimes change is resisted within the storytelling community, and the word "conference" would be needed. To me, the word "conference" lacks the interactivity and socialization that make an event great.

That was when I decided to delve into the etymologies of places and events for us storytellers.

Some words relate to my challenge at hand.

And the others?

I was just plain curious--
  • Practice--In 1392, this word came from the Old French "practiser" to mean "to do, act, or perform habitually". Modern Latin uses the word "practicare" to mean "to do, perform, practice" while the Greek "praktikos" means "practical". Then, in 1568, the word "practiced" referred to being an expert and related to professions, especially in the religious area. I am sure any storyteller would agree that practicing is "practical" and the professional ones tend to do so with religious fervor!
  • Rehearsal/Rehearse--The Anglo-French of 1300 used the word "rehearser" or "rehercier" to mean "to give an account of", "to go over again, repeat", and "to rake over". The "re" part is "again" while it is the "hercier" part that connects with "to rake, harrow". Surprisingly to me, this word connects with "hearse". When approached from this way, then the raking has a different view. The word "hearse" could also be "herce" in Old French or "hirpicem" in Latin. The Oscan "hirpus" means "wolf" and relates to the "teeth" on the rake. The rake breaks up the soil. Nowadays we think of hearse as the vehicle that carries a body away. I only hope that the rehearsal for the storyteller will break up soil so that something can live rather than something that is dead. Perhaps by rehearsing, we bury the dead and rough-and-tumble practices to make way for the new evolved story to be shared soon with the intended audience.
  • Premiere/Premier--The French word "premiere" came from a longer word "premiere representation" and refers to the "first performance of a play". The word was first recorded in 1889. Yet, the word "premier" as an adjective came about 1470 from Middle French to mean "first, chief" and from Latin "primarius" to mean "of the first rank, chief". This may seem a little unrelated, but when from the word "primary" from "primarius", then it also means "of the first rank, chief, principal, excellent". It is that "excellent" part that a storyteller strives for that first time presenting a piece to an audience.
  • Festival/Festivity--From the Old French in 1387 came "festivite'" as well as the Latin "festivitatem" and "festum". The "festum" related to "feast". Yet, the first time "festival" was recorded as a noun, it was 1589. Modern Latin provided that "festivalis" was "of a church holiday. If the word "festival" is broken down to "fest", then we have American English who borrowed and abstracted from the German use of the term "Volksfest" to be "fest".
  • Fair--The noun emerged in 1330 from the Anglo-French "feyre" and from Old French "feire" to mean "holiday, market fair". The Latin "feriae" referred to "religious festival, holiday". Feasts were often involved in one way or another.
  • Venue--Originally "venue" came from the Old French "venir" as in "to come" around 1330. However, it was "a coming for the purpose of attack". Then, in 1531, it became known as a "place where a case in law is tried". Finally, in 1857, the word was extended to mean locality in generally, "especially site of a concert or sporting event". Perhaps the storyteller is always "on trial" by the audience? When exploring the word "come", this one came from the Old English "cuman" and could mean "to go, walk, step" as well as "to regain consciousness". Could it be that audience members are brought to consciousness to the world of story?
  • Conference--This word really comes from "confer" or the Latin "conferre" in 1533. This word means "to bring together, compare" with the "com" meaning "together" and "ferre" meaning "to bear". "Confer" relates to "Infer" and there is a sense of "taking counsel". From "infer" with the Latin word "inferre" of 1526, then it means "bring into, cause" as well as "to bear, to carry, to take". The Russian word for "infer" is "brat" or "bremya", which means " burden". Though, by 1529, there was a sense for the word to mean "draw a conclusion". Therefore, a conference could be a place where people come together, compare techniques or information, take counsel, and then draw conclusions as individuals as well as for the community at large. Perhaps the word "conference" is not so bad after all to continue to use for the National Storytelling Conference's name change.
  • Exposition (Expo)--This comes from the Old French in 1388 of "exposition" to mean "explanation, narration". From the Latin "expositio" we get the word "expound". Later, it meant "public display" recorded for the first time in 1851 with reference to the Crystal Palance Exposition in London. Yet, the abbreviation "expo" was first connected to the world's fair held in Montreal in 1967. To expound on the word "expound", it comes from the Old French of 1300 of "expondre" to mean "put forth, explain". I had considered the phrase "World Story Expo" to reflect more of an interactive sound. I had also thought of "World Story Fair" so expo's connection with the world's fair is intriguing.
  • Stage--The noun come from the Old French "estage" in 1300 to mean "story of a building, raised floor for exhibitions" as well as "a story or floor of a building, stage for performance". From the Latin "staticum", it means "a place for standing". The stage was often the place for actors and plays so the word connected to these performances. The word "stage" could refer to a "period of development or time in life". In many ways, a storyteller develops when sharing stories upon a stage. The story evolves as it is finally before an audience.
  • Slam--There are a couple different means for "slam". For one version, "slam" means "a severe blow" from a Scandinavian source in 1672 from the Norwegian "slamre" or the Swedish "slemma". The verb means "to shut with force" and to "say uncomplimentary things about". Slam has connected to such words as "slam-bang", "slam-drunk", "slam-dance", and even "slammer" to refer to jail or prison. The second version of "slam" could mean "a winning of all tricks in a card game" from 1621 or "complete success" from 1920. As for the Story Slam, the event is lively and intense and could be like verbal blow to the brain. The audience is encouraged to boo or heckle. However, when a slam artist connects with the audience, then there is the feeling of "complete success".
  • Fringe--The word comes from 1354 of the Old French "frenge" or the Latin "frimbia" meaning "fibers, threads, fringe". There is the figurative sense of "outer edge, margin" recorded in 1894. Nowadays, it refers to an unfiltered festival that has "edgy" material and could have adult content warnings. There are some fringes that are family-friendly.
After some of these meanings, perhaps the new name "World Story Conference" in place of "National Storytelling Conference" would be best.

What do you think?

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
(801) 870-5799

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