Family Lexicon

Before I learned of Ginzburg’s book, I used the phrase “family lexicon”(incorrectly, I think in retrospect) as the domain name for a website of family photographs. The project crashed and burned for the best of reasons. For more about that, see here. Still, I feel a certain propriety toward the idea that certain words or phrases, through repetition and association, build family ties, establish identity. I also suspect that some words — possibly the same ones, but possibly not — establish the identity of individuals, set boundaries, alliances, oppositions within that group.

I found Ginzburg’s book by googling the phrase. It’s a splendid achievement — she really shows a reader how a particular string of words, repeated in changing, expanding situations, comes to stand for an underlying sense of participation, an identity. All members of the family seem to have some relationship to those words. Whether these relationships are the same for individual members of the group seems quite a different question, one she didn’t examine.

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