Laird Review

The parameters of Ariel Avissar’s TV Dictionary project are just as described in the pitch—“simple”—and there are almost no restrictions. The video should be “short,” but there isn’t a suggested numerical benchmark. The maker can chose “a clip or several clips” from a featured show, but there’s no mention of exclusionary selectivity (hence Jason Mittel’s entry for Battlestar Galactica that hinges on a television advert and Avissar’s entry “Flow” which is a supercut of ad breaks that dissolves into emergency broadcast color bars). There’s really only one clear and fast rule: although associated definitions can vary in quantity, contributors should use just “a single word” to explore their media of choice.


Rotem Sudman

and I

broke this rule.


This is not the only thing our videos have in common. While the TV Dictionary is, as Sudman writes, “about language as much as it is about television,” the instructions never specify which language the project is about, and certainly not which dictionaries should be used. In making my second entry for the collection, like Sudman I felt limitations that were never imposed by the prompt but had emerged apparent in the community of practice. Most entries in the collection, even for non-Anglophone series, default to English words and the most common English language lexicons.






In experimenting with what a TV Dictionary entry might look like in or how it might be shaped by Japanese, Sudman and I pushed on the linguistic parameter of the only rule to explore new conceptual possibilities in the project. For Terrace House, Sudman chose not a word but a kanji, a Japanese character (or logograph) of Chinese origin. With multiple meanings and various “readings” (i.e. pronunciations) kanji convey an amalgam of meanings and concepts simultaneously. A particular, intended meaning is determined not just by context, but according to the context-based reading or pronunciation. For example, in addition to “ma” (as highlighted in Sudman’s piece), 間 on its own can also be read as “aida” to mean, among other things, “between.” Sudman’s piece on a reality show about relationships, therefore, is also about the ambiguous relationship between a symbol and what it can communicate. The potential for kanji to have various readings depending on context and reading also appears in my entry on Sailor Moon. In it, I play not really with a word at all, but with the interaction between Japanese and English dictionaries through the act of typing and translation in process, ultimately landing on the title and titular character of the related show to explore meanings beyond words to the affective relationships between a TV text and its fans.



[1] But what if the language were Japanese?