Friday, March 30, 2012

Linkfest [2]

A collection of language-related things that caught my attention last week:
  • Arabic typography links: Joey (@joeyverse) gave me a book on Arabic design which is cool. (But holy cow it has its own design flaws. So many widows; it makes me sad.) Other cool things -- 
  • Jayme (@aunicorninspace) thought this infographic on the history of western typefaces would be relevant to my interests. She was right. 
  • I loved diagramming sentences in middle school. So did this lady over at the NYTimes, so she wrote about it.
  • Idioms & The Eggcorn Database
    • From the site: In September 2003, Mark Liberman reported (Egg corns: folk etymology, malapropism, mondegreen, ???) an incorrect yet particularly suggestive creation: someone had written “egg corn” instead of “acorn”. It turned out that there was no established label for this type of non-standard reshaping. Erroneous as it may be, the substitution involved more than just ignorance: an acorn is more or less shaped like an egg; and it is a seed, just like grains of corn. So if you don’t know how _acorn_ is spelled, _egg corn_ actually makes sense.
    • In my family, there's a related phenomenon called a "Robism" after my sister Haley's husband, Rob. He's a brilliant man (cf. Untamed Science), but his brain is... different. To Rob, an idiom is just a random string of sounds. It's a toss up if he'll get the words or the usage right. I am taking the liberty of publishing some of Haley's running list here. Love you, Bert.
      • Let's crack a rip
      • By the skin of their sheets
      • Fundamental tablestone of belief
      • Smartie two shoes 
      • Bite off more than we can handle
    • When she heard me giggling over the fact that Rob doesn't know the words to "Jingle Bells" (Jingle bells, jingle bells, marching all the way), Jayme told me about the Turian race of aliens in the Mass Effect universe because she's a dork like that. Turians try really hard to incorporate human idioms into their speech and writing, but usually do it wrong:
Subject: A fly in the lotion...
Commander Shepard,
I've come to have a lot of balls in flight, as you humans say. It was brought to my attention that you're still around, working on something secret. Frankly, I hope that whatever you do keeps you far away from Noveria this time, but if you must come back and, what is it, upset the fruit cart, let me know, and I'll clear a path for you for old times' sake.
A please as always,
Lorik Qui'in, Administrator, Port Hanshan

  • Votes and Vowels: A Changing Accent Shows How Language Parallels Politics
    • Vowel shifts and this article are neat. Remember Mitt sayin' "y'all?" What a conniving little weiner.
    • Instead of blogging about anything I want, I've been trying to keep my writings here loosely gathered around "words," which is a pretty broad topic. But since we're already talking politics and it's my blog, I just have to say what I've been feeling explody about lately: Seriously -- Let's get back to that SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE thing. Government can and should operate outside of the realm of personal and religious morality. Christianity dictates evangelism, not zealotry. From what I know of the guy, Jesus wants people to choose him, not be legally required to comply with interpretations of his teachings. It offends my Christian heritage and really all the rest of me that politicians warp goodness into a tool to mobilize the ignorance of their constituents to get them elected so they can make policy that makes them rich. Whew.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

& Other Delights

I've never seen 30 Rock, but I really like Alec Baldwin, if only because he drops "'twas ever thus" like it isn't a totally nerdy thing to say. He does this podcast called Here's the Thing, and it's just him talking with people. He's a pretty fantastic host, sharing just enough about himself to make the interviewee forget he's being interviewed and instead respond openly. Usually he's talking with actors, but my favorite episode so far features trumpet player Herb Alpert.

My hubz made me listen to the Tijuana Brass one time, and for a year in college, Whipped Cream and Other Delights, Rufus Wainwright's Poses, and Cloud Cult's Advice from the Happy Hippopotamus were the only albums I listened to while drawing or painting. (Some of that old stuff is on my DeviantArt. Hadn't looked at that in a long time, wow.) I was pleased to learn that Alpert's also a painter and sculptor -- but I also had no idea that he was a big deal producer: The Carpenters, Cat Stevens, The Police.

Mr. Baldwin and Mr. Alpert's conversation feels like a synchronicity of a sort, fitting perfectly into this discussion I've been having lately about creativity and writing and music (tagged Developing a Creative Process). Here are some lines that really resonated with me:
Alec Baldwin: Do you feel that all this technology and all of the power that comes with that has made people lazy, like people can’t get in a room and they just can’t play a song all the way through anymore?
Herb Alpert: No. I don’t think it makes them lazy. I think it gives them too many options. Now, with the digital setup, you have umpteen tracks and you can just keep going and keep going, and then you can tune them up and you can shift it around, take something that was happening at the end of the song and move it up to the front. Too many options. I think it takes some of the heart away.
Herb Alpert: I’ve been painting for 42 years. I started painting in 1970. I’m not a Sunday painter. I’m not a Sunday artist. I do it every day. Traveling in the ‘60s with the Tijuana Brass around the world, I used to go to museums, and I’d go to the modern art section for whatever reason. That just appealed to me. I see these paintings, like a black painting with a purple dot or something, hanging on the wall, and I think, “Let me try something like that.” I wasn’t doing it to think something would come of it.
I’ll tell you what’s great, and I know, Alec, you know about this. There’s something about being an artist – being a musician, being a painter, being a sculptor – when you’re doing it, you’re in the exact moment of your life, and that’s rare. When you’re not in that mode, you’re thinking about yesterday or tomorrow or some other chazerai that really doesn’t make any sense. But when you’re doing it, man, it just feels so right on the moment.
Alec Baldwin: You had no training?
Herb Alpert: No training. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I think there’s an advantage to that. I think when you’re an amateur and you’re just fooling around, you have infinite possibilities. If you go to a professional, they’ll tell you what not to do, what to do, and how to do it, and blah-blah-blah, and I didn’t know about that. I just did whatever. I’m always going for a feel. I do that in music, in sculpting, in painting. It’s like I’m not looking for something that’s going to excite my eyes. I want something that excites my soul, something that really resonates.

I drew this. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What you might have been

Developing a Creative Process, part 2
This is part of a series of posts on the nature of art, why I'm not as good at it as I'd like to be, and how I'm trying to be better. For the rest, see the tag Developing a Creative Process.
I am fortunate enough to have a couple of friends who think about art very differently than I do, and I've been pestering them about their creative processes and perspectives in hopes that it will help me develop my own instead of staying slave to the storm.

My second reaction to Bella Ruse (@bellaruse) saying they wanted to try some new sounds was a comparison of Joseph and Kay's ridiculous amount of skill to my lack thereof. They're both really well-trained multi-instrumentalists who have been writing, recording and touring together for a couple of years now. So Joseph being deliberate about a sound or a mood is easy for him in a way it's not for me; he's got the chops and the theory to make that shit happen tout de suite.

Sure, I could learn. I could study theory and practice my 10,000 hours until I'm a master. Am I going to? Probably not. My livelihood doesn't rely on it. But when Bella Ruse says, "We like our music now, but we want to try a different vibe," that means that Kay sits down and learns how to play guitar. Like, scales and shit. That means Joseph gets his Finn-from-Glee on and dorks it up on the drums. I admire this a lot.

Another person I really admire is Joey Lee (@joeyverse). If he says he's going to do something, he will -- and that is exactly the person I'd like to but probably never will be. Joey writes young-adult fiction (in addition to an embarrassingly long list of other skills), and at this point he's gone through the creative process so many times that he can describe it pretty effortlessly. Actually, he started doing just that on his own blog (which I totally take credit for).

Joey just finished the first draft of the sequel to his novel GEARS. Going into the writing phase of TREAD, he had a bafflingly specific outline to work from. He knows how many words each scene should be, how many words to write in a day to reach his deadlines, what writing level is appropriate for his audience, and a million other facts that are essential to the success of the work.

Not this giant.
So how does he know this stuff? I think two things: 1. he hangs out in the right places with the right people to glean this information from other people (SHOULDERS OF GIANTS, and all that) and 2. he's already done it a bunch. I guess this is where Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours come in.

It's hard for us amateurs and hobbyists to catch up with those who fully commit themselves because they've not only been doing it longer, but they've been hitting it harder and reinvesting every time. Knowledge and experience work like compounding interest. Start with a little of one, get a little bit of a return on the other, reinvest, repeat. Sure, I want to punch Kay for being able to sight-read Debussy, but I wasn't there when she worked her ass off to gain the skills to be able to do that.

(Because I wish my parents did it to me, I will more than likely force my children to study piano and/or violin from an early age because I think eventually they will be glad for it. Then when Brachiosaurus and Triceratops are grown, they will probably think, "I would never put my kids through what my parents put me through," and I'll end up with amateurs for grandchildren.)

So where does this put me artistically? Right between working hard and hardly working. I am writing, writing, writing lately, and doing it with a high level of introspection so that I'm hopefully gaining as much experience as I can. Writing is a strength so I'm focusing on it. Since practicing guitar isn't, I am trying my darnedest to make those giants hold still so I can piggyback. But also, this:
It is never too late to become what you might have been.
- "George Eliot"
Really, that perspective is a lot more... optimistic? goal-oriented? intentional? than I am. I don't want to "be" anything. So why am I doing it? Why am I thinking about it and writing about it?

Why am I a taster? Why a jack of all trades and master of none? Or maybe it's not just me. This popped up just as I was about to hit "Post" --

Monday, March 26, 2012

Deliberate creativity

Developing a Creative Process, part 1

Until recently, I thought creativity was something that just happened to you. When I make a song or write a blogpost or paint a picture or construct a dollhouse, it's a storm that falls on me: immediate, all-consuming, impossible to willfully incite, and over when it's over. This means
  1. I am not deliberate about content, so what I make is often overly personal 
    • (Or at least the seed for the idea is)
  2. I therefore become attached to what was created as an extension of myself
    • I place value on the creation as a product of the furystate in which it was born
  3. Once it is tangible, I abandon it because 
    • I don't like/can't handle criticism because it feels like criticism of me instead of the work
    • I don't want to "be" a musician or a painter or a writer so I don't "do" anything with it
    • I feel emotionally purged, so what else is there?
I am fortunate enough to have a couple of friends who think about art very differently than I do, and I've been pestering them about their creative processes and perspectives in hopes that it will help me develop my own instead of staying slave to the storm.


Joseph and Kay are the indie rock duo Bella Ruse (@bellaruse), and sometimes they play as a band with my hubz Nathan Eliot and our friend Alex (@alexyoungdrums). When Bella Ruse came back to the Twin Cities after SXSW, I was surprised to hear Joseph describe some of the changes that he and Kay were planning for their music careers -- really specific changes that they think will help them make their living as musicians. 

Since writing for me feels more like a dam breaking than a deliberate act of creation (Far Side at right is what came to mind as I wrote that sentence), my reaction was something like, "You can just decide that sort of thing?"

Joseph insists -- rather emphatically, actually -- that music or any creative endeavor is exactly no different than any other endeavor you do for money. It's a business. He loves making music, but the specific kind of music he ends up making is less important than him getting to spend his life making it.

I'mmabe real -- Gut reaction was "Isn't that selling out?" It honestly surprised me that Joseph has this perspective because his music and his lyrics are really, um, feely. I guess I just assumed he got the same emotional satisfaction from songwriting that I do, which he very well may for all I know -- but the point is that being intentional isn't being any less creative. 

I can be deliberately creative: I sketch on the canvas before I paint, I can outline the pants off an essay, and a lot of thought goes into the wallpaper choices of a dollhouse. But it's not the same with songwriting or even creative writing for me. Writing academically, doing stupid crafts, and even painting do not leave me emotionally clean and empty like when I write a song or journal (writing without my brain, what I call "heartbarfing"). I guess this is the line for me between "art" and "craft" : at some point in its creation, art provides an immediate emotional experience for the artist.
This is part of a series of obnoxiously personal and verbose introspective posts on the nature of art, why I'm not as good at it as I'd like to be, and how I'm trying to be better. Stay tuned with the tag Developing a Creative Process

Updating translated documents

The sixth in my series about prepping your documents for translation has gone up on
Well, the double title looks really stupid like that. Oh, well.

As silly as it is, I'm pretty pleased with the device used in this short entry. Cutesy.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Localizing pictograms

The fifth in my series about prepping your documents for translation has gone up on
I actually didn't write this but edited and adapted an article that my coworker Anna wrote. Why reinvent the wheel, right?

I found this report, "Symbol Usage In Health Care Settings for People with Limited English Proficiency" -- and was reminded of the Pioneer Plaque. Invented by Carl Sagan and Frank Drake, the plaque is basically a note to extraterrestrials that we're on the level; that is, "Please don't kill us, we're ramen."
The difference between ramen and varelse is not in the creature judged, but in the creature judging. When we declare an alien species to be ramen, it does not mean that they have passed a threshold of moral maturity. It means that we have.
—Demosthenes, Letter to the Framlings 
Orson Scott Card, Speaker for the Dead

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Reading & Dotsies

A new conscript popped up on Omniglot today: Dotsies. The premise: Why do we use letters that were designed for writing instead of reading? They're clunky. Dotsies, though hard to adjust to at first, is pretty darn efficient when it comes to space. I'll talk more about how much I love it after some cool stuff about my FAVORITE THING: reading!

Remember this forwarded email you got in 1998 right after the ones with the puppy gifs, the modern day parable with the biblical overtones, and the bad luck threats?
Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe. ceehiro. 
Nobody remembers where this exact text came from, but it does such a good job illustrating and explaining the phenomenon at the same time that it'd be silly of me not to copy/paste it.

One of the neat things about Dotsies is the experimental curvy version (or would you prefer full-figured?). Words end up looking like a cross between Arabic, Thai and Tamil scripts. Very pretty, but you'd have to have a lot of reading experience under your belt to recognize the shapes.

The article "The Science of Word Recognition, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the bouma" not only gets the award for Awesome Wordplay While Making a Kubrick Reference and Simultaneously Referencing a Groundbreaker in Your Field -- but is also a lovely historical jaunt into the study of word recognition. The conclusion is that of course word recognition is more complex than word shape, which brings me back around to Dotsies. (Actually, the conclusion was that typefaces should not be designed solely for a pleasing or exaggerated bouma shape.)

Now I haven't spent time learning it (yet!), but I assume that shape plays a very important part in picking up on Dotsies. Like sight-words for toddler, memorizing common wordshapes (the, at, for, idk) or morpheme-shapes (-ing, -er, -est, etc.) would surely pay off.

But to be honest, my knee-jerk reaction was something like, /le sigh, if only I could rearrange the order of the dots to make something a little more sensical/phonetic (like the Korean Hangul script; big up to Sejong the Great!), then this would be a great conscript. Well, I was wrong:
  • I just want every alphabet to be a phonetic alphabet instead of an alt-English alphabet. So sue me.
  • It's not perfect, but the dots do fit onto the English letters in a pleasing, kind-of-makey-sensey way. Check out the letter mapping at
  • I CAN REARRANGE THE DOTS to make whatever I want by modifying the character mapping, and that is a beautiful thing. And also a great resource for cryptographers. If only I could download this remapped version as a ttf... 
In short, thank you, Craig Muth, for making something so pretty and flexible. I mean, you can't write it, and nobody knows how to read it (yet!), but it sure is pretty. See it in action.

Finally, speaking of nobody reading, I just wanted to say thanks for reading this blog. (Hi, Mom! Hi, Dad!)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Writing style + Globalization [AND PUNS]

Are you kidney-ing me?
The fourth in my series on prepping your document for translation has gone up at

Perhaps now is a great time to encourage any wordnerds out there to at least browse alt.humor.puns. Entire conversations happen in puns, and they're AMAZING. Here are some of my favorite gems from this string about James Bond
  1. James Bond at 50 still has a license to thrill.
  2. It's all a big Con, er re: ... well, Niven mind!
  3. When Bond matures he gets Many-pennies Moore.  
Often, a thread will start on one topic (fishing) and change to another where the puns are better (inventors): 
  1. Einstein never put bait on, he was a hook, line and thinker.
  2. Unlike Edison he wasn't prone to tinker.
  3. Not true, he had a patent interest in things.
  4. None of these great men should be taken lightly!
  5. It Tesla long story, some were waiting for a sine. 
  6. Morse the pity, then! 
It got even weirder then: cows and udders and farm puns. AND I LOVE IT. I guess I'm my father's daughter that puns seriously make my day. To be so quick and light and upsidedown and sideways with words is something I truly admire.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Word art

I've talked about words as art: as lovely fiction, as lyrics in a song. Here are words used in other artistic ways that I really like.
  • Artsy fartsy: I'm excited to go see the Belle Lettres exhibit at Altered Esthetics in Minneapolis. 
  • Conscript: I love this project Takeluma: a sound-symbolic, phonetic alphabet that can scrawl your words in a wall almost in real time. #nerdalert but also a neato installation.
  • DIY: Worldle makes word clouds so you can make art. Here's what this blog looks like:
  • Upcycled art: I'm sure you've seen these book autopsies by now. And of course there's the Fuck Yeah, Book Arts! Tumblr.
  • Web design: I very much enjoyed these pretty slides on how to use @font-face and CSS3 to create "classic" typographical looks. (I guess I really like guys who are into typography because I have an internet crush on Sean McBride (@smcbride). #dreamboat)
  • Letters: Good news. van Gogh's unabridged and annotated letters are available online. 
It may well seem to you that the sun is shining more brightly and that everything has taken on a new charm. That, at any rate, is the inevitable consequence of true love, I believe, and it is a wonderful thing.

21-28 March 1883 to Theo van Gogh 
Do yourself a favor and write someone a letter today. I wrote three!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Text expansion + contraction

The third in my series of prepping your document for translation has gone up at
I feel the need to point out that the caption I provided for the graphic is what you see here. 

Get it? Contraction?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Art, music, language, feelings

I may be exaggerating if I say that Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics (previously mentioned in this blog) changed my life, but it was a part of my life during a formative time. I read it in my first year of college, which happened to be when I was starting my first linguistics class. I think it was loaned to me by my friend Drew who knew I liked drawing, and it was offered to me more as an art reference. But what I really got out of it was the surprising realization that words and art are really not that different: they are abstractions of the real world, a distorted reflection, a shadow on the wall of a cave.

At the same time, I was being taught just how awesome language is -- the intricacies of the vocal tract and hearing organs, the complexities of grammar and syntax, how we use language to relate to one another -- and language seemed like a god to me, which I guess makes Saussure Jesus. If anything could capture the wall shadows and sew them back onto reality's feet (mixing metaphors and literary allusions, woah), language would be that thing.

But I'm continuing to feel like it's sometimes not enough. I just can't find words big enough or small enough or accurate enough lately. I know that it's possible for words to come close, oh so close, to capturing something beautiful (see Rothfuss post, and forthcoming Card post), so it's just that I'm not wielding them with enough skill.

The only thing that has come close to mimicking or reflecting my feelings lately -- which I know are really strong and too many -- is music, usually with lyrics. It's probably not a coincidence that the times I've felt most wordless (now, for whatever reason; writing my thesis; when there's stress or tragedy afoot) are my most prolific periods as a songwriter. Compound mediums are powerful.

My hubz Nate just "gets" instrumental music (classical, jazz) more than most, certainly better than I do. He's of the school that music without words, if done well, offers a more direct route to thoughts or feelings than words can. My objections have always been, well, 1. I'm bored (but this is just me being dumb) and 2. whose feelings are being communicated? Without words, the music is up to interpretation a lot more than music with words, so whose emotion is it reflecting -- the composer, the performer, the listener?

All of these are valid answers, and this is, in fact, why I think Nate appreciates wordless music: its interpret-ability. I myself almost always prefer the hit-them-over-the-head-until-they-completely-understand-exactly-what-I'm-saying approach when it comes to communication (I lecture, I share too much, I ask personal questions; if I have a thought, it's hard to keep it to myself). But then I think about how Rothfuss-as-Kvothe glosses over his time with Denna: it's too private to share. The beauty of the moment is left more intact by not teasing it apart too much. Omission and implication are also powerful.

Maybe I talk and write too much, use too many words. Maybe the subsequent thought after "Words simplify reality" should be "And when you don't want them to or they can't, don't use them. And that's okay."

All of this is part of a discussion on "What is art? Who is art for?" -- or maybe "Why is art?" -- that I find generally exhausting and circular, so I'll stop. But I will share the music that's been strumming my pain lately: the Punch Brothers' new album Who's Feeling Young Now?, particularly, "Who's Feeling Young Now?" and "Soon or Never." Also all their other music.

There is one piece of music-without-words that slays me every time: Arvo Pärt's Tabula Rasa, an orchestral piece written specifically without a text or mythology reference in mind.

In the Soviet Union once, I spoke with a monk and asked him how, as a composer, one can improve oneself. He answered me by saying that he knew of no solution. I told him that I also wrote prayers, and set prayers and the texts of psalms to music, and that perhaps this would be of help to me as a composer. To this he said, "No, you are wrong. All the prayers have already been written. You don't need to write any more. Everything has been prepared. Now you have to prepare yourself." I believe there's a truth in that. We must count on the fact that our music will come to an end one day. Perhaps there will come a moment, even for the greatest artist, when he will no longer want to or have to make art. And perhaps at that very moment we will value his creation even more - because in this instant he will have transcended his work.
- Arvo Pärt (1935-)
When Nate took me to see the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra's performance of Tabula Rasa, which was the first time I heard it, I cried in front of a bunch of strangers, and I still haven't figured out why.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The power of words

It's amazing the things that words can do.  From a short, sweet philosophy paper by Rachael Briggs on how exactly S may not know that p:
Annabella Milbank believes that she is decent and upstanding. And indeed she is; her belief flows from her decent and upstanding character. She could, however, be easily corrupted. If corrupted, she would become so desensitized to decency that she would continue to believe she was decent and upstanding (albeit unfairly maligned by puritanical society). So Annabella’s belief is not sensitive to the proposition that she is decent and  upstanding. Nonetheless, Anabella appears to know that she is decent and upstanding.
I have to admit that I hated logic, even the tiny bit I had to know for studying pragmatics. But so far, this Introduction to Logic has been refreshing. Words are able to capture such complex thoughts!

But --
I thought about writing today, and how strange it is that I very often write without meaning to communicate to others. Surely this is a recent phenomenon in the history of language. I write fiction and poetry, I journal, I write songs -- and no one (or very, very few people) ever read or hear these things. For me, writing makes my brain organize a mess. I don't like the sound of calling it therapeutic, but it gives me the same feeling that really thoroughly cleaning my kitchen gives me: control. dominion. power to define.

Very often I write to process emotions, but here I want to undermine what exactly words are capable of. Today I had the distinct feeling that the words were not enough, that I was stuffing my emotions into little wordboxes even though they weren't quite what I was feeling. (Maybe I'm just not the kind of writer I want to be.) Instead of the storm of thoughts and feelings, I named the temperature, the speed and direction of the wind, and the barometric pressure. I didn't do the storm justice, but everything seemed a little more manageable.

I guess I'm not undermining words at all. It's just that, instead of capturing reality, right now, for me, the power of words lies more in simplifying reality, cutting it up into bite-size pieces so I'm able to swallow. Is this what I've always done? How complex would my world be if I only had thoughts instead of words? Does this make any sense?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Linkfest [1]

A collection of language-related things that caught my attention last week:

... with only a few exceptions, male bylines outnumbered women’s by three to one. At NPR, meanwhile, women hold the top editorial position at five of the seven news programs, and make up nearly half the overall staff.

Terminology management + Translation memory

The second in my series of short blogs for Minneapolis translation company KJ International has gone up.
This article from some other LSP is a good summary of how translation memory works. And of course there's always Wikipedia.

I registered to attend a couple of Across webinars so i can learn more about actually managing TM.

on Twitter.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Comic Language

My friend Brian sent me a link to this short comic about a nerdy, grammar-loving dragon. Made me giggle and then feel sad because sometimes I feel like that dragon.

I've been reading a few comics lately. I just finished Marvel: 1602, written by Neil Gaiman. Right now I'm in the middle of The Life of Captain MarvelI just talked X-Men for the better part of an hour with my friend Joey. I've got comics on the brain.

(Tangent: I Googled the word "KTANG" (one of the sounds that Rick Jones's arm bands make when struck together to call Captain Marvel from the Negative Zone) hoping that I would find a cool picture to post here, but I ended up seeing a lot of Avatar: The Last Airbender fanart by people who 'ship Kitara/Aang. This is my favorite. And then I read the article "Use and Misuse of Power in Avatar: The Last Airbender." And then I commented on it.

So anyway, comics --)
Comics are usually a combination of both words and images, but is one of those two things more important? After all, there are comics that don't have words, and there are books that don't have pictures. When I read a comic, I usually zoom through it, mostly reading the words, only stopping to look when something is particularly eye-catching or essential so that I understand the story. Then, I go back at read it again, absorbing the art and how it interacts with the words on the page. I always read a comic twice. And that second time through, I'm always surprised by how much of the art I've already absorbed.

To be short, the answer is no. The images and the words work together. If you haven't read Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud, you should. It's a semiotics course, an art course and a design course all in one. Oh, and a comic book. #meta, y'all. Here's McCloud's explanation of how close the abstracted art of comics and the direct language of comics really are:

Language Log curates a tag for linguistically-aware comics.

Also, here's a great quote from Leonardo DiVinci that I stole of off a great post about children's picture books:
And you who wish to represent by words the form of man and all the aspects of his membrification, relinquish that idea. For the more minutely you describe the more you will confine the mind of the reader, and the more you will keep him from the knowledge of the thing described. And so it is necessary to draw and to describe.