Singapore Contemporary Young Artists

Playing With & For The Community

urban body speaks/ an editor’s view

Farhan Shah

It’s telling when a noun morphs into a verb, enters the modern lexicon and doesn’t get red flagged by Microsoft Word when typed out. Google is one of the most profound examples. A few years ago, it was just a search engine trying to usurp Yahoo. Now, it’s a techno behemoth with tons of ventures. And a verb that is a better word for ‘search’: “Let me Google that.”

How does this relate to social media and in particular, our urban environment?

While most consider the urban environment simply a cityscape of buildings,  parks and shiny lights, what they forget is that the important role of language. Our language has evolved in accordance with our environment and ourselves. Consider Shakespeare in the 16th century, great authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald during the heyday of the Jazz Age some 100 years ago, and celebrity bloggers now. The language used was an apt reflection of the urban body at that time, and now—the rising heyday of social media.

As an Editor and self-confessed stickler for order, flagged words in red and green of Microsoft Word had always raised my ire. Each time I typed Facebook, Twitter or other social media variants and saw  the unmistakeable squiggle underneath these words, I would rage silently. I could simply add it into the ‘dictionary’ with a simple mouse click but I had the knowledge that the mother of all word processing software did not recognise these social media platforms as legitimate words. And that was knowledge enough.

But now, the newer versions of Microsoft Word recognise these terms.  Even tweet is considered correct, and not only in the ornithological sense.

These words have slowly been integrated into our lives. Where we were once asked for our numbers, now, we’re asked about our Facebook profile or Twitter handle. Introductions were by way of friends of friends. Now, it is just a FB message or twitter DM away.

I could go on about how social media has changed social behaviour and ironically made us less social (cue the intervening smartphone at dinner when a living, breathing human being is your companion) but I believe there are more well-qualified people to debate this.

(On the point about smartphones at dinner, I always make my companions put theirs in a pile at the centre of the table. Anyone who reaches for one has to do something. Just food for thought, pun fully intended.)

What I am interested in is how these words will slowly become a verb and ultimately, such a common word to use that the uppercase is dropped and the entire word is lowercased, with tenses, past participles and subject-verb disagreements. When that time comes, then you know the word has fully immersed itself into our urban fabric and become part of the urban body.

In the meantime, you can facebook me at Farhan Shah. I also love to tweet at the @theSecondMrHan.


#6 in a series of written perspectives on how the urban and the body manifest in the other, in a running accompaniment to the visual art exhibition called, well, urban body. Nine artists will present visual provocations—in a bid to expose and make tangible the cityscapes of our formed selves.

A published compilation of both art and essay will be available at the exhibition.

urban body opens at 6:30pm on 2 august 2012 at the Orange Thimble, in Tiong Bahru, Singapore’s first housing estate. For details and updates, check out the event page on facebook.

Copyright © 2012 Author. This article may be downloaded, reproduced, and distributed without permission as long as each copy includes this notice along with citation information (i.e., name of the site in which it originally appeared, date of publication, and author’s name). Permission must be obtained in order to reprint this article in a published work or in order to offer it for sale in any form.

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This entry was posted on August 25, 2012 by in Others.

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