I started asking people on twitter how they used the winky face emoticon or emoji, and found a surprising amount of disagreement about whether it indicates flirting, simply joking, both, or something else.
So I decided to make a survey with a couple extra questions to see if we can figure out what correlates with each meaning.
A useful article about communicating compassionately with people who are less fluent in a language you speak well. Excerpt:
This one is hard but very important: try not to guess the sender’s emotional state. Tone seems off — too abrupt, too vague, too direct? Salutation or closing is a little weird? Word choice seems funky, or maybe way too strong? (A colleague emailed me that she needed a document “desperately”, which I did my best to interpret as “I really need this document ASAP” instead of “I feel a deep, painful longing that will not be fulfilled until I get this document”.) You absolutely have to ignore this and focus on the content.
Above all, do not tell the other person that their communication style is off-putting. Take a deep breath and have some empathy: apart from the subtleties of expressing emotions in a non-native language, different cultures have very different norms about how much of that emotion should even be reflected in business communication at all. A savvy French friend told me, “Happy Americans send really happy emails; annoyed Americans send pleasant emails. Happy French people send happy emails; annoyed French people send neutral emails. Happy Germans send pleasant emails; annoyed Germans send annoyed emails.” If you’re reading an email and trying to tell whether a non-native speaker is happy or annoyed, you are really shooting in the dark.
Want to know how they feel? Until you get used to their style, you’ll probably have to do a lot of asking. For example: “Was it a problem for you that I didn’t communicate this deadline earlier?” “Did you think the overall quality of the report was okay?” “Was it all right with you that I started this meeting without you when your train was late?”
This points to a hidden benefit in learning other languages: increased empathy for non-native speakers of a language you already speak well. Sometimes I can say to myself after a few minutes of conversation, “Ah, it feels like this person’s English is around the level of my French [or my Spanish, which are at different levels]. Even though I don’t speak their native language, I can do some of the communicative strategies that I really appreciate when people do them with me in that language.”
The point about over-inferring tone from text also reminds me of a conversation I recently had about whether ending a text with a period indicates that you’re angry. The person I was talking with said they’d been told they sounded annoyed, but “They know I’m an old person – look at all this grey hair! Why would people assume I know how to communicate something that subtle in a text?”
Three things that I like about this tweet, linguistically:
1. It syntactically integrates the emoji into the sentence into what is, indeed, an adjectival position. This is (currently) a rarer way of using emoji – we more commonly put them at the end of an utterance to indicate how we feel about what comes before, or as an entire utterance to respond to what a previous person said – but if emoji do get linguistically integrated in a systematic fashion, this is what it could look like.
2. The emoji that it uses is already a symbolic (linguistic) representation, since it consists of numbers, albeit in a specific format that has a different meaning from just “100″. If an emoji contains a word, is it language, a picture, or both?
3. Despite the fact that it’s talking about using emoji instead of words, it uses 24 words and only 2 emojis to do so. Emoji aren’t a simple replacement of words for pictures but rather the development of a more complicated system that integrates the two. You could call it 💯.
I’m especially intrigued by use #13 – a twitter fav meaning “this is now the end of the conversation,” which I’ve definitely used myself. I’ve also noticed this same use of a like in a facebook comment thread. I’d say it’s less common on tumblr because there’s no threading or separate likes, but I think you can use it sometimes if you’ve got a series of reply or ask posts.
At any rate, it’s an elegant solution to the fact that we don’t want to bid each other farewell at the end of every short interchange, but it’s still weird to leave someone hanging, wondering if they’ve even seen your last message and if they’re going to reply – a fav and no reply within a few minutes acknowledges that they’ve seen your message and that they could have replied but didn’t, so the conversation is now concluded.
How else would you use a fav, like, heart, +1, etc for conversational purposes?
I think the conclusions that John McWhorter draws about texting also hold for instant messaging and other forms of rapid written communication such as note-passing and quick email exchanges. Basically, the characteristics that distinguish between what we think of as “speech” and “writing” is really a function of “real-time” versus “delayed time” communication.
And in addition to the particles he identifies: “lol” (empathic) and “hey” (topic shift), I’d also add “so”, which is used to connect an utterance to a larger conversation. Basic form:
A: Hey, is it raining out? B: Yeah, it’s pouring A: So I should bring an umbrella I guess
Because “so” is used as a connector, it can then be extended to contexts where there isn’t really anything there to connect to, in order to make the remark seem less out-of-context and more connected to the overall set of conversations that one has with that person. Extended form:
A: So you might want to bring an umbrella tonight B: Oh it’s raining?
Does "guise" in internet-speak mean something different than "guys"? and if not, why do we modify the spelling of a word to something that is longer than the original word?
Personally, I adopted “you guise” as a synonym for “you guys” when I started seeing it online because the “guise” spelling makes “you guys” feel more gender-neutral to me. “You guys” is my default second person plural pronoun, and I do genuinely use it gender-neutrally, but I feel like that’s not always clear, so I’d be interested to see another spelling catch on for it, even if so far I’m only using “you guise” very informally. (I support other variants like y’all, you all, you folks, etc, but I don’t have them natively so I feel kinda awkward saying them.)
Interestingly though, so far I seem to primarily use “you guise” when the pronoun is set off from the rest of the sentence, as in “you guise, look at this!” or “omg you guise this is amazing” and not when it’s syntactically integrated into the sentence: I wouldn’t (yet?) say: “what do you guise think about this?” or “I’ll see you guise tomorrow.” But a quick twitter search for “you guise” suggests that many people are using it in both contexts, so perhaps I’ll pick that up too.
I suspect “you guise” started as a misspelling that quickly got stylized, as in older-internet “teh”, lolspeak “iz” and “haz”, and forever alone “y u no”. It seems to be associated with overearnestness or mock annoyance in a small set of “srsly you guise” memes, with phrases like “srsly guise / guise srsly”, “oh you guise / stop it you guise”, “stahp you guise / ur traumatizing me”, “ermahgerd / we huv a mussage you guise”. By contrast, the search results for “you guys” meme are quite different and look more sincere, with lines like “you guys rock”, “I fucking love you guys”, “aww you guys”. Somehow it doesn’t feel as old to me as those other stylized misspellings, but of course I could be misremembering.
There’s currently no entry for “you guise” in Urban Dictionary, although there are several for plain “guise” as a synonym for “guys”, one of which suggests that “guise” is a combination of “guys” and “disguise”. Not sure if I agree with that origin, although certainly I suspect that “guise” already being an English word and therefore not being flagged by autocorrect may have helped. (While at the same time not being on the list of English homophones that people get super worked up about, like your/you’re and they’re/their/there.)
So, open question! If you use “you guise”, what do you intend it to mean? If you see other people using “you guise”, do you think it’s a typo, homophone mixup, play on words, stylized misspelling, reference to a “srsly you guise” meme, gender-neutral version, or something else? Does anyone pronounce “you guise” differently from “you guys”? Are there particular groups that you’d associate it with?
Do you happen to know if there's an age split on the pronunciation of "gif"? My own experience is that those over 30 and/or who have been on the internet since the 90s tend to pronounce it "jif", while under-30s and those newer to the internet tend to pronounce it with a hard g instead. Thanks!
I’m really not sure. Anyone have thoughts on this?
The New York Times appears to think that gifs are a type of hipster retro-chic:
And social media sites like Tumblr have entire pages devoted to viral GIFs plucked from the biggest news events of five minutes ago (political speeches, awkward awards-show moments and other pop-cultural flotsam), which instantly circulate as must-see memes.
“For people in their 20s, GIFs are a relic of their childhood, so it makes sense they would come back as a fashion statement — just like ’70s fashion came back in the ’90s, and the ’90s are coming back around now,” said Jason Tanz, the executive editor of Wired.
I’d say that this isn’t quite accurate: old gifs were looping drawings that were fixed (and distracting) parts of a website, while new gifs tend to be ripped from video and are used specifically in commentary or reaction, never as a static part of the website itself (you wouldn’t make a logo or header a gif anymore). More on language and reaction gifs.
Since we now have the bandwidth to show gifs that are clips of larger videos (that have the bonus of less loading time and are easier to embed than videos), I think it makes sense that gifs are coming back but for a new purpose, as a way to quote a scene from a video.
Thanks to several commenters on the ok vs okay post for pointing this out, so I’m making an additional thread for this topic. I don’t think I use kay, and I think kk feels more emphatic than k. But I don’t think I can use any of them as an adjective/adverb:
*Are these pictures showing up for you k/kk?
K is also the only one that’s good for me as a tag question:
We’re leaving at 5, k? *?We’re leaving at 5, kk?
But I can use both k and kk to respond affirmatively to something.
I think there’s a distinction in use of ok vs okay in tag questions also, now that I think about it:
We’re leaving at 5, ok? We’re leaving at 5, okay?
Tag-ok is a basic check for whether the person received the question (yes-ok), whereas tag-okay feels like it is pushing them more for whether leaving at 5 is actually okay (good-okay) with them.
You’re unlikely to spot much wordplay in the “trending topics” highlighted on Twitter, where the hashtags tend to be event-driven: #Steelers, #Halloween, #WalkingDead. Occasionally you’ll also see a form known as “the Mad Lib hashtag”: Trending topics like #IWannaKnowWhy or #willgetyouslapped, which are basically punch lines in search of crowd-sourced setups. These hashtags tend to generate a ton of response, turning Twitter into a giant slumber-party game, where half the guests get a little too earnest (#Iwannaknowwhy my boyfriend doesn’t love me) and half just make class-clown cracks (#IWannaKnowWhy girls actually want boyfriends… . Trust me, they suck).
But the hashtag, for the dexterous user, is a versatile tool — one that can be deployed in a host of linguistically complex ways. In addition to serving as metadata (#whatthetweetisabout), the hashtag gives the writer the opportunity to comment on his own emotional state, to sarcastically undercut his own tweet, to construct an extra layer of irony, to offer a flash of evocative imagery or to deliver metaphors with striking economy. It’s a device that allows the best writers to operate in multiple registers at once, in a compressed space. It’s the Tuvan throat singing of the Internet.
The resulting juxtapositions can be spare, goofy, poignant or elegant. ConsiderConan O’Brien: “Have you ever noticed that you never see me and Ryan Gosling in the same room at the same time? #gullibleladiespleaseread.” Or the theater criticJesse Oxfeld: “Oh, you know, standing in front of Whole Foods, on the phone with Mom, answering her question about how to spell Holocaust. #nevermisspell.” Or the writerSusan Orlean: “My 7 yo has taken to calling me ‘Lady,’ as in, ‘What’s for dinner, lady?’ #wheredidigowrong.”
These constructions all tend toward the particular — a sardonic twist to the tweet. But the hashtag can also be a joke about itself, as when the HBO wunderkind Lena Dunham tweets, “What’s my place in it all? #questionsevenmymomcantanswer.” Part of the joke is that her hashtag is so elaborate, so concatenated, that no one else wouldever conceive of using it. It’s a metajoke about metadata — a bit like setting up an entire hanging file just to store a single Post-it.
A lot of hashtag commentary seems to focus on twitter hashtags, but since tweets are limited to only 140 characters (including any hashtags), this necessarily limits the flexibility of which hashtags people can use. I’ve seen a lot more hashtags on tumblr, where the lack of character limit means that functional/categorical hashtags can and do coexist with sarcastic/meta ones. For example, this post is tagged with both: #linguistics and #language on the interwebz, #self-referential hashtag.
It would be cool if tumblr had a trending hashtags feature though, instead of constantly suggesting that I click on #advertising.
I suppose this is also a good place to point out that this blog has a twitter @AllThingsLing.