I’ve been AWOL since Monday. Got out of the hospital. Ouch! In for the same reason I went in 1997 and 2003, which coincidentally were the same years the Marlins won the World Series. I got the opportunity to mention this to the current owner a few years ago for a chuckle. The Marlins are in first place right now and then I go to the hospital. Coincidence? Don’t bet on it. They’re a lock.
So this emoticon thing, we think we’re pretty clever and original. It’s a language created in a growing world of Instant Message, Twitter, Text Message, etc. The emoticons in this post header are from 1881.
Abbreviations have a way of expanding (remember when MacDonald’s only served hamburgers?), creating the need for something simpler to replace it. I have talked lot about abbreviations used in property listings in newspaper advertising, where a language of real estate abbreviations evolved incentivised by pay per word pricing which is becoming more diluted as classified listings move online.
There is an awesome article in William Saffire’s column On Language in NYT Magazine last weekend called Emoticons: The seamy side of semiotics where he makes the case that language is in the third stage of compression.
Three centuries ago, we were fed the short’nin’ bread of contraction; won’t, don’t, I’m, you’re made the apostrophe the king of cant, which caused a 19th-century lexicographer to denounce writers “carrying contraction to such an excess as to make their writings unintelligible to all but the initiated.”
Then came the period of portmanteau terms, named after the French suitcase with hinged compartments: chuckle and snort blended into chortle; breakfast and lunch fused into brunch; and, in our time, broadcast and the World Wide Web morphed into webcast (still capitalized as “Webcast” by the New York Times copy czar).
Electronic communication has whisked us into a third phase of compression: the Age of Shortspeak. As we listen and watch replays of multicasts to suit our scheduling convenience, those above-mentioned interminable, bor-r-ing four-second pauses are edited out. Humanizing uh, er, ah, um moments of meaningless vamping are pitilessly erased; even the dramatist’s “pregnant pause” has been digitally aborted.
In other words, intro a new “short” way to communicate. It evolves. Repeat.
I know people who use IM who are not good at communicating emotional nuance and some that are. This all boils down to the constant change and evolution of language. Some people are good at adapting and some aren’t.