I’m approaching halfway through Pilgrim’s Progress and Christian, having just passed through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, has hailed Faithful, who is a little way ahead, by calling ‘Ho! ho! So-ho!’ to catch his attention. I was trying to figure out what sounds Bunyan was trying to capture on the assumption that this would have sounded natural rather than affected to him and his original readers and, admittedly tangentally, that got me to wondering about what kind of effect mass communications are having on humankind?
Back in Bunyan’s day, people travelled and there were national networks like the church. However, compared to today there were limits on physical travel because of time and energy and nothing like the modern network of communications that spans the globe. David Bowie died yesterday and the world knew within a few hours of the news being announced but I suspect I’m well behind on keeping up with births, deaths and marriages in the street I live on compared to my 17th century forebears.
Would ‘ho! ho! so-ho!’ have been widely recognised when Progress was published or would it have seemed unfamiliar even in other parts of England? Also, while I could probably look up more about an unfamiliar term or phrase online, my counterpart from Bunyan’s day would probably have to rely on guesswork or finding out if anyone else around them knew.
So, does this mean that we are becoming a different type of creature because of the different types of communication networks we have and the broader (but perhaps shallower) transmission of culture? I’m not sure – I suspect some fundamentals haven’t changed for 300 or even 3,000 years and more. However, I’ll be keeping my eye out to see if I chance upon more considered research in this area.