On Stephen Fry’s New Television Series

Stephen Fry — writer, actor, all-around personality — has revealed that he will be making a series for BBC2 on languagePlanet Word.

I haven’t seen a good documentary about language, where it comes from, how we speak it, the variations of it, whether languages are dying, whether we are better at speaking than we were. There are so many questions.

Language is my real passion. So, I’m going to Beijing to interview the man who invented Pinyin, a phonetic version of the Chinese language. He’s 105 years old … if he dies on me I’m going to be so annoyed.

Fry, much like George Plimpton, is a bit of an expert on almost everything. When he appeared on Craig Ferguson’s show a few months ago, his conversation with Ferguson ranged over a wide array of topics, and I felt genuinely smarter for having watched the show for that hour. (Not having a DVR or other recording device, I had to stay awake into the wee hours of the morning, hours that I don’t much care to see, to be perfectly honest.)

Fry recently railed against the “infantilism” of television programming. Hopefully, his five-part Planet Word will raise the bar.

From the official press release:

In Planet Word, a five-part series on language for BBC Two, Stephen Fry dissects language in all its guises with his inimitable mixture of learning, love of lexicon and humour.

From the cutting-edge of linguistic research to the glories of world literature, Stephen analyses how we use and abuse language, corral it for good and bad, and seeks out whether we are anywhere near to beginning to understand the complexities of its DNA.

Commenting on the series, Mark Bell, the BBC’s Arts Commissioning Editor, said: “Language is what sets humans apart from other species. Planet Word explores our linguistic achievements and how these skills developed. Human dictionary Stephen Fry is the ideal guide for the journey of how we came to be so verbal.”

Spanning locations across the globe including Hong Kong, Sydney, Israel, Kenya, Tanzania, Malaysia and Japan, Planet Word journeys through the thousands of years since man first mastered speech to the cyber world of today with its html, codes and texting.

I’m already fascinated by this, and it hasn’t even aired yet. Language is the way in which we mediate with the world. Words shape our experience, how we define our experiences through words also affects how we see the world.

Stephen Fry. Planet Word. BBC2. Sometime. :h2g2:

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