Monday, April 11, 2016
I think I'm 😊 about this
As one who has been writing for a living since the dark ages, I have gotten crabbier over the years as the general public seems to have lost its ability to write standard English. I'm afraid the decline has been technology-aided, or perhaps technology-enabled, thanks to first email and then texting. Somehow the fact that it's so easy to send a message, without the pesky tasks of finding paper, pen, envelope or stamp, has induced many to think that it's no big deal, why bother with nuance or nicety.
Grammar and spelling became optional, because after all it's just email, not a real letter. It was fun to use profanity and silly abbreviations and acronyms and ;)s. Many users of those silly abbreviations defended their use because your readers might misunderstand that you were making a joke and take offense unless you used a :) or LOL to signal humor. Few of them stopped to contemplate that people have been writing letters for centuries and until recently had been able to convey humor or other emotions simply through careful choice of words! How quaint!
Pretty soon :) started to look quaint too and some genius invented emojis to help people's increasingly feeble writing skills get their points across. I knew I hated Microsoft when a couple of years ago it became impossible to type (a) in an email, because a smiley face would appear 😊. Yesterday when my son asked for some financial advice I learned that you can't type 401(k) in an email, because the (k) comes up as a set of kissy lips.
I don't text unless my life depends on it, but I understand that the loss of English is way worse on that platform than in email. Not only r words deliberately mispld and abbrv, sometimes there r no wrds at all in txts, just emojis; 4 inst, 💃 means "let's party." There are thousands of emojis and several international organizations and committees in charge of vetting and approving new ones, each assigned a bureaucratic official name such as Happy Person Raising One Hand. You will be happy to learn that there's even an emoji called Smiling Poop, which is delicately described as looking like a pile of soft-serve chocolate icecream with a face.
The skeptic in me was delighted to learn that the worldwide rush toward emoji sophistication has hit a snag. It seems that if you have an iPhone and you send certain emojis to somebody with a Samsung, there's something seriously lost in translation. For instance, when "Grinning Face with Smiling Eyes" shows up on an iPhone, it's perceived more as a grimace and iPhoners think it's conveying negative emotion. But when the same emoji shows up on a Google device, the smile is rendered differently and users think it's conveying highly positive emotion. The difference is five points on a ten point scale! Just think, when your friend asks if you want to go to Joe's Bistro for dinner and you text back Grinning Face with Smiling Eyes, meaning "no, I don't like that place very much," he will take it as wild enthusiasm and make reservations.
This could be serious! I have a radical suggestion that will help those who seek better communication. How about if you just text back "no, I don't like that place very much"? Try it; you might like it.