A world of words

If you enjoy language, deep thinking about humanity, or any kind of provocative thought, I encourage you to watch a new five-part series on BBC 2, Stephen Fry’s Planet Word.

In the BBC’s impenetrable wisdom, it has chosen not to show the series on BBC America yet, nor in the near future. There is, after all, only so much time left after one has scheduled the required doses of Gordon Ramsey’s various series and long-ago episodes of Star Trek: Next Generation.

Fortunately, we Americans can currently find the episodes posted online….

The first three episodes are available, and the remaining two are coming the next two weeks.

One of the very best things about the series is that it frequently cuts in clips from my most favorite sketch by Fry and Laurie (that would be Hugh Laurie — Dr. Gregory House as you may know him): “A Discussion of Language.”

But Stephen Fry’s Planet Word, while still being slyly witty, delves deeply and captures some memorable examples of how we humans acquire language, communicate, and define ourselves by how we speak.

Watch in particular the segment that starts at about the 6 minute mark in part three of episode 1, during which a young lady named Twyla demonstrates that, though she is but 4 and a half, she has internalized grammatical rules and can apply them to words she’s never heard before. It’s beautiful.