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December 2002
January 2003
February 2003
March 2003
May 2003
September 2003
August 2005
September 2005
December 2010
June 2011
July 2011
March 2013

The word you just clicked on in the previous page, was sown on the Internet on the 14th of December 2002. It began as a hapax, i.e. a word which appears once and only once in the literature, and by extension, which appears once and only once on the web, considered as a global text. Indeed I carefully checked out on all the search engines that there was no occurence of this word on the web beforehand.

The aim of this piece is to follow, month after month, year after year, the birth and the life of this new signifier which has no signification yet as I write these lines, letting it grow like a plant, observing its evolution.

The most famous hapax is «ptyx» by Stéphane Mallarmé in «Sonnet allégorique de lui-même».

Christophe Bruno
2002 / 2013 

December 2002

As I explained above, I carefully checked out on all the search engines that there was no occurence of the hapax on the web beforehand. Here is a list of search results for december 2002 which indicates that the word in question does not exist on the Web yet:

google.com
altavista.com
alltheweb.com yahoo.com
excite.com
tiscali.com
ask.com
looksmart.com
onelook.com
overture.com

Here appears a logical paradox, which is typical of our approach: in order to keep track of the pages linked above, I had to duplicate them on my server. These pages are explicitly quoting the hapax. Hence, by this very fact, the word should lost its hapax status.

In order to maintain this status, I have chosen to exclude these pages from search engine inclusion (technically, this is achieved with a robots.txt file). This way, I erase the track of these pages. I could have proceeded differently, but I prefer that the first step comes from a place different from my own quotations.

We see that the fact that the web can be seen as a global text is related to the presence of search engines: they unify the texts on the web so as to form a connected graph.

All this requires some more precise definitions:

1) I define as "Global Text" the set of the online texts, as related one to each other by search requests. Thus, a webpage which does not appear in the search engines is not part of this set.

2) A search result (as the ones linked above) page will be considered as to be of the order of speech and not of writing. It does not belong to the Global Text.
January 2003

The hapax page appears in a few search engines. I have recorded the result page for google here
. Note that for the time being, the word is still a hapax. As indicated last month, this page of results cannot be considered as belonging to the "Global Text".

February 2003

That's it! My hapax is not a hapax anymore. Contrary to last month, it appears in more than one page and start mixing with other words as you can see on the link below:


google.com

Now let's wait and see what is going to happen next.

March 2003

My hapax is slowly growing. I keep asking myself how this word came into my mind. The second part of the word reminds me of several french words like "gigogne" ("poupées gigognes" in french means "russian dolls") or "cigogne" ("stork"). These words are clearly related to infantile sexual theories.

The first part of the word remains unclear, although it looks a bit familiar to me.

May 2003

There are now a few hundreds of webpages that mention my hapax. It's quite funny how it propagates. However, I can't perceive any emergence of a meaning yet. It's quite strange because when I launched the project I was quite fascinated by my idea, it was a sort of zero-ground "meme" (cf the memetics theory of R. Dawkins), the propagation of an empty virus. Now it's launched, I almost don't care about what is going to happen. Maybe nothing. It's out of my control anyway...
September 2003

I've made a little program to try to get some information about the growth of the hapax. I will try to put it online sometimes.

August 2005

My project Hapax suddenly undergoes some new developements, thanks to some unexpected coincidence as it happens sometimes in life. I was invited in the south-east of France, in a region called Luberon, one of the most beautiful and coveted area of the country. At Ménerbes, the house that Picasso had offerered to Dora Maar has been bought by descendants of a firm acquired by Halliburton; the castle of Marquis de Sade at Lacoste is being restored by Pierre Cardin. Le Castellet, the house of Nicolas de Stael, is still own by his family...

Anyway, the point is that as I was driving in the countryside, I came by a village called "Isle-sur-Sorgue" and as soon I saw the pannel, memories of my childhood came back. I had been here already, when I was about four or five years old. And I couldn't believe what I soon rediscovered: this village was famous for its river called "la Sorgue" and the reason why it was famous was that up to now, nobody had been able to locate its source. No doubt that my parents had brought me there and had shown me the river.

All these memories were quite fuzzy in my mind, but I had enough of them to be able to understand the origin of the hapax I had sown three years before: this word supposedly with no origin was in fact a kind of autoreferential pun on the name of a river with no source, called "Sorgue", first syllab of the hapax.

September 2005

Since I discovered the origin of my hapax in a memory of my childhood (see the previous post), I work on a new project Cosmolalia.com . It's about mythologies and the Web (not mythologies of the Web). I don't know yet where I'm going, we'll see.
December 2010

The word I sown started to disseminate height years ago, very slowly at first. As a hapax, it was the representant of nothing, hence it was inalterable. After a few years it was quoted in a few hundred pages, acquiring some unstable and fuzzy meaning. At the moment, its dissemination has stopped... its signified has become stable again, although, as a unused signifier in a textual ecosystem in expansion, it is threatened with extinction. If you want to make me happy, after reading these pages, talk about it around you, on your blog, facebook or twitter... or even in your personal mails: don't worry, the surveillance bots will spread the word of «sorgoine».

You can see below screenshots of Google search results for the word I sown, at different dates.


2002:



A few weeks later:



A few months later:



2009: about 100 webpages quote the word "sorgoine".




June 2011

Something strange happened today related to the hapax project. I don't know who is this person - Mlle Z.S. - who blogged the hapax (she seems to know me somehow)...
July 2011

There is a deep relation between the concept of hapax and the concept of holophrasis. A holophrasis is the prelinguistic use of a single word to express a complex idea. Here is an example in french, by Roland Barthes :

« Je-t-aime n'est pas une phrase : "il ne transmet pas un sens, mais s'accroche à une situation limite : celle où le sujet est suspendu dans un rapport spéculaire à l'autre". C'est une holophrase.

(Quoique dit des milliards de fois, je-t-aime est hors-dictionnaire ; c?est une figure dont la définition ne peut excéder l?intitulé.) »

Roland Barthes, in Fragments d'un discours amoureux.
March 2013

I just realized another strange relation: between the notion of hapax and Stendhal's syndrom as well as his cristallization theory. The object of love (here Virginie Kubly) is disconnected from Stendhal's paths just as the hapax is disconnected from the network of signification.


La rencontre avec Virginie Kubly. ? Croquis de Stendhal extr. du manuscrit Vie de Henry Brulard

La rencontre avec Virginie Kubly.
Croquis de Stendhal extr. du manuscrit Vie de Henry Brulard

« Un matin, me promenant seul au bout de l'allée des grands marronniers au jardin de ville, et pensant à elle comme toujours, je l'aperçus à l'autre bout du jardin, contre le mur de l'Intendance (J'étais en H, je l'aperçus en K) qui venait vers la terrasse. Je faillis me trouver mal et, enfin je pris la fuite comme si le diable m'emportait, le long de la grille par la ligne F. [?] Le bonheur de la voir de près, à cinq ou six pas de distance, était trop grand, il me brûlait, et je fuyais cette brûlure, peine fort réelle. » (Stendhal, Vie de Henry Brulard).