January 24, 2011

Intonations - Part 2: Write right?

‘Sounding right’ may be easier when voice/speech is involved (of course, at its best along with the visible part - body language). But what of it in written communication? Not too hard to achieve now, is it not?

Gone are the days when only words were used to convey exactly what we wanted; when the choice of words, length of sentences, syntax, punctuations and the like were sufficient to capture and carry our emotions/feelings (“tone”) to the reader. With the advent of internet, instant messengers/chats, SMS, etc. we’ve conveniently added, modified, re-invented and continue to enrich our lexicon.

The count of people who ‘write right’, so to speak, are dwindling. Purists are feeling completely lost, as a new breed of writers evolve – the ones who speak/write/breathe internet lingo. It’s time that we kept internet slang with us as a ready reckoner, along with all the dictionaries and thesauruses. (No, all the bold, underline, italicize and change in font colour - for the purpose of emphasizing - just won’t do!)

An inseparable part of our written communication now comprises of emoticons. Yes, those innumerable permutations and combinations of all the keys on our keyboard apart from the alphabet, or rather, including them. Try as hard as we may, we just cannot avoid beginning or ending our sentences with one of those.* Sentences begin to look incomplete and ‘naked’ if you don’t have them! Some of us are so used to it that we end each and every sentence with them.  If you don’t believe me, check out a post from a photography forum (quoted verbatim):

I had been to a trek to a place called ettina bhuja. It’s a wonderful mountain near dharmasthaLa- KarnatakaJ This is one of the shot I took thereJ When I saw this, it looked like a Lion walking towards the Peak of the mountain. Is it really looking the same for u or am I imagining too much:P Comments and Suggestions are welcomeJ
Good Morning and Have a nice dayJ

I think that the most abused, over-used and misused emoticons would have to be :-) and :-P. I have a cousin sis’ who puts a tongue-out at the end of EVERY sentence whenever we chat. Irritated, I asked her why she did that. She told me that it’s become a habit now!

Emoticons do make chats more interestng. But it’s not like you’d really do them in real life. I mean, how many of us would really stick our tongue out, or blow a raspberry? And to make matters more convenient for us, we also marry off these emoticons in holy matrimony. Ever used these? ;-D ;-P ;-O … Can you actually wink AND stick your tongue out? (I know you’re trying it out now. Does feel and look stupid, doesn’t it?)

And what can I say about the “smiling smiley” (the mother of all smileys)… It’s used in all sorts of situations – right from a genuine smile to the NOM kind. For example,

I think your review sucks, you don’t know the second thing about movies and I completely disagree with what you wrote! :-) (Huh?)

Or there was this instance in which I wrote a mail to a DL asking them to stop spamming our inboxes by hitting a ‘reply to all’. One of the fellas was jobless enough to do another ‘reply to all’ mocking me. Not the one to shut up, I gave him a piece of my mind (personally to his email only), for which I got this reply:

“I am sorry. Didn’t mean to hurt you. No hard feelings pls J (Like I care!)

I’m sure you would’ve seen loads of such instances in various blog/forum comments.

Another of those ways of writing I picked up after I began blogging is like *this*! Yes… our dear way of expressing actions implied before/during/after what we say, as also for over-emphasis. (I think I will have to do a *duck for cover* after I complete this post!)

Initialisms are a favourite and here to stay. We’ve beautifully compressed what once were phrases or even full sentences into funny sounding (when pronounced) acronyms - most of which we don’t understand; end up Googling if someone uses them; and don’t/can’t remember them. SMSs, chats and Twitter sometimes make it inevitable. I began re-using Twitter a few weeks back (thanks to a blogger friend) and boy, was (am?) I at sea! (The hash-tags, trending topics and RTs there is a topic eligible for another discussion altogether). SMS lingo seems to be taking over spellings, even for names of products (LMN) and various services. Why, when I read some of the e-newpapers it’s common to see ‘thru’ and the likes.

And as ever so often we end up contradicting ourselves. On the one hand we shorten sentences into acronyms for our convenience, on the other we lengthen and misspell words to exaggerate. Sometimes to the point of trying to sound illiterate. After all, not all English words are pronounced the way they’re spelt (especially words with French origin), so why not spell it the way we say ‘em? So we remark wattay beee-yoo-ti-fool deyyy eet eez. To tolk laayik thees eeej vaaarrrry simpal, no? Also all the ‘yo mama’ talk. Never mind that some scholar has decided to remove the N-word from Twain’s classics. But that kind of lingo is here to stay. Brotha' from anotha' motha', anyone?

What’s with our need to constantly qualify and clarify our emotions with other things? Aren’t words good enough? NO, you say emphatically? Really? I think not. Imagine all the classics and popular books replete with them. I shudder to think.

What of all this, you ask me? I agree that the lingos, slangs, jargons and emoticons are 'koool', makes life much easier too – texting/chatting/tweeting. But are we not beginning to depend on them too much? Substituting them for a better choice of words? Actions speak louder than words, so also emoticons?? But let not these be the be-all and end-all of written communication.

ME? I’m guilty as charged! And, I’m ambivalent regarding its usage. I can avoid them completely. And prefer to be misunderstood if I don’t clarify that it was joke or tongue-in-cheek comment with a :-P? … Errr… Worse, misunderstand someone else if s/he doesn’t? Ummmm… You see?

Mind you, emoticons aren’t foolproof either. For a :-) comment I put on a blogger’s post, I was asked if that was a knowing smile or a sarcastic one. There you go people, nothing is out of the ambit of being misunderstood!

As for me, I’m on Twitter what Sidhuji describes “as confused as a baby in a topless bar”! Maybe more of that in some other post.

Diclaimer: There isn’t any!

* As hard as it may seem, try to leave comments without any emoticons in them… Should be fun!

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