“Oh…” I simpered, delighted, like a Jane Austen dowager…”I can’t believe you take the time to read my blog very day!”
It is the ultimate compliment, is it not, bloggers all? Someone who checks out your words, day in, day out, drawn irresistibly by the tease of the title, steered dexterously through thought streams, entranced by the prose poetry, romanced by the thrill of the verbal chase.
She considered my words briefly. “Yes,” she affirmed with a quiet satisfaction, “I am a follower of yours. I read every post. Takes me about 30 seconds.”
Like a rookie fireman on the pole I plummeted back to reality. 30 seconds? I write, what, 5-600 words? That would be, er, 20 words a second. Serious speed reading, no time for linguistic romance, cut to the chase, do no pass Go, do not collect £200.
Speed reading. We all do it. Since I began reading council documents and EEC directives 25 years ago, I have learnt to skim the text for relevance, ditch the flotsam and jetsam, hit-and-run for information and clear off with the swag in the bag.
It’s a highly efficient system. But what about the poetry? The romance? Something has to give when one careers through a text pillaging and plundering, doesn’t it?
NASA thinks so. The thing that’s missing, they say, is the ghost words. Or, if you want to be technical: our subvocalisation.
Slow down as you read this. Read every word. Can you hear the words in your head? Unbeknown to you, your muscles are closely involved in what you are doing. If you can hear the words it means you are actually producing tiny, imperceptible muscular movements, saying the words as a real, physical undercurrent.
The Space Agency worked out quickly where those movements are. There are button-sized natural sensors under your chin and either sides of your Adam’s apple. NASA being NASA, they have not only devised ultra-sensitive detectors but also devised computer software which can translate the subvocal vibration back into words.
So that, God forbid, if an astronaut was unable to speak out there in the vast reaches of space because of some horrendous mishap, the computers would whirr into action and read the astronaut’s subvocalisation.
The spaceman could simply think the words and they would become reality.
In the beginning was the Word.
So: as bloggers, do we want people whispering ghost words as they read our thoughts, or hitting-and-running?
Me: I’m a realist. Who has time to read 500 words these days anyhow? A rating is a a rating, right? What matters in the 21st century are clicks, baby: clicks.
But also: I’m a prose poet, man. I like to work those tiny muscles. Sound rocks, even – no, especially – subvocal, imperceptible, batsqueak sound. I’d like you all to hear the rhythm and the rise and fall as you read, perhaps even hear it in my voice.
You can read more about NASA’s subvocal words program here.Fascinating stuff.