Literary tattoos of the New York Public Library staff

Originally published at:


This lady may or may not be a librarian but, I like to think she could be…

“words are LIFE”

I remember in college a stoned conversation where we were debating mankind’s greatest invention. There were the typical answers: the wheel, rope (?), refrigeration, computers, etc. My first and only answer was “written language.”


Weren’t bears scratching up trees while we were still swinging in them?

Does a cat or dog marking territory with scent count as written language?

There’s a difference between writing your name with pee in the snow, and just peeing on the ground.

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“Communication” and “language” are not interchangeable concepts.

I could probably find a way to communicate my lunch order to a Sushi chef in Japan but that doesn’t mean we’d be speaking the same language.


No, I’d say that’s more olfactory, but written implies physical usage. I often wonder if whatever species replaces us will wonder if we had a written language, or if we were just 500 monkeys at 500 typewriters.

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I am reminded of the alien cephalopods in the film “Arrival” communicating with ink blots.

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Okay, thanks a bunch for wasting my time now that I have to watch it.

Eye contact and body motions are still a language, no? I think you we’re talking about written language. Where do we draw the line between specific claw marks and well routed porch signs that say “Get Off My Lawn”? Both written. Both language.

Edit: I don’t speak bear, so for all I know they were scratching “for a good time call XXXXXX”, which doesn’t qualify as language.

Oh shit, sorry. . . “spoiler alert.”

Not according to any traditional definition of the term, no. (Excepting sign language of course.)

I’ve found that people who need and know ASL can read facial expressions and lips. Then they can tell you exactly what you said better than the person next to you who probably wasn’t paying attention.

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