[New words]

Saturday, May 19, 1956

This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.

Seldes asked audience to send in words that they use which are unique to their family. Talks about words that are created and used for work in a certain group. Saw an advertisement for a dictionary of synonyms. Can't get by with plain, simple words. New words have a tendency to get old faster than the old ones do. Linguistic persuasion. Semantics. Quotes Walter Lippman "in a democracy we have to be governed by judgments and opinions held by the majority" and "people ought to be persuaded but their opinions should not be manipulated." Can make words mean different things. Talks about book The Power Elite by C. Wright Mills - also wrote White Collar, The American Middle Class. Talks about advertisements on the same page in the paper as the ad for this book.

Discussion turns to Lester Asheim and the codex form of the book - the volume you hold in your hand and you turn the pages. This is not the only form of a book. No necessity that this particular form has to be the only form for the future. This, to a book publisher or writer, is terrifying. The book which we hold in such reverence, may not ever have been the best repository for the thought of the world. If there were wire recordings in ancient Greek times, we might not have had to rely on the biased, second-hand reports of Socrates. In many ways, we are escaping from complete dependence on books. Reading a poem by e.e. cummings vs. listening to e.e. cummings reading his own poem. "A poem doesn't mean, a poem is." Reading Shakespeare vs. seeing Shakespeare on film or on stage. We were all raised with reverence for the book and print. Mentions book "Why Johnny Can't Read." Thinks it is quite possible that 50-100 years from now, "reading for entertainment can be entirely taken over by electronic means." Harold A. Innis who wrote "The Bias of Communication." Whenever you have a change in the method of communication, you bring about a revolution in social habits. You also have a shift in power. We are getting information on the air (radio), on television and to a certain extent in motion pictures. We are caught in between two fires and the only thing we can do is to learn how to use the new instruments of communication.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 70524
Municipal archives id: LT7525

Hosted by:

Gilbert Seldes


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About Lively Arts, The

Legendary critic and author of The Seven Lively Arts Gilbert Seldes discusses big-thinking issues in art and life from his characteristically populist perspective.

Simultaneously a timely and visionary program, Gilbert Seldes's The Lively Arts (1953-1956) examines contemporary issues of 1950s television, radio, and theater, as well as current events and the intellectual arts. Seldes, who was the first Director for Television at CBS News and the founding Dean of the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, was also a renowned critic, author, playwright, and editor. As a major social critic and observer, Seldes viewed theater, television, and radio with a prescient eye to the future based on a well-informed understanding of the past. 

These programs feature commentary and discussion on a wide range of topics — from sex and censorship in the movies to progressive education to juvenile delinquency to political campaigning on television — many of which are still hotly debated today. Serving as a precursor to Seldes's television programs and providing an audio context for his seminal books, this show is key to understanding today's cultural commentary.


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