Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cat Roulette

I've noticed a lot of people discussing the popular conversation-related penis-go-round Chatroulette and pronouncing it as "Chat Roolay." I'm not sure why. Is it Stephen Colbert's fault for insisting that his name be pronounced the French way, creating a neurosis wherein people assume all possibly French words fade off into an "ay" sound, throwing all consonants to the wind? Probably. But in French, the addition of an "e" at the end of a word, usually accompanied by an extra consonant, means that you pronounce the final consonant. Semantically, this makes the word feminine, or diminutive (affectionate/small, like "taquito" in Spanish). Example: equestrian becomes "equestrienne" - a female horseback rider. This structure can be seen in a few English words, like "dudette."

But even if proper French pronounced the word "roolay," why do they want to pronounce the word the French way? That would make even less sense, because in French "chat" means "cat," and chat is actually called "discussion instantanée." How un-fun.

Portuguese has the best word for "chat" - "bate-papo," which means "jaw shake," and is pronounced "bahtchee pahpoo."

Anyway, I actually went on Chatroulette when I was really bored and kind of tipsy one night. At first a guy told me to "show him some," so I pressed a button and talked to a Spanish college student for awhile. What I thought was weird about the whole thing was that so many people preferred to chat rather than actually speak on the service.It reminded me a lot of the book "Feed" by M.T. Anderson (one of the best books around). The book is about a distopian future wherein everyone has internet in their minds via a chip, and during tense moments in the book the characters chat to each other instead of speak out loud.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Got questions?

Ask me anything

Even ASL, I guess.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


You knew this was coming. I borrowed this image from my art blog, and it feels lazy to post the same thing to two blogs. I like to think I have a 16 blog-capacity personality, at least. JK YALL, even peanut butter can only be spread so far, and I don't dare to do anything peanut butter can't.

(That kind of statement is called hyperbole.)

Anyway, I've already discussed ways that we kids add emotional inflection on our internetspeak, like adding extra vowels (yaay), or using acronyms LOL. Emoticons, predictably, do the same thing.

Oftentimes an emoticon is used to suggest that the tone of a statement is opposite from its content.

For example: "Yeah, you have the worst taste in music. I saw your Taylor Swift playlist. :)"

They can also have a softening effect on a statement, which is crucial to polite use of language. (That's why we say "Could you open the window, you think?" Instead of, "It's muggy; open that window NOW.") However, since half of what people do on the internets is flirt, this softening effect could also be called an "un-creepifying effect." For example:

Monstercookie92; What ru up 2?
Uwant2cmygilliehicks: Oh just puttin' on my face so I don't look UGLY.
Monstercookie92: U never look ugly.
Monstercookie92: :)

In this scenario it says, "There's a ten percent chance I'm kidding with you, just enough so you know I don't plan to roofie you tonight."

What's really interesting about the emoticon is its future potential. These are the stone age days of chat technology. Will they someday have our faces, like in my picture? What will all the sexual predators do then?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Alphabetism and Acronymy

Remember the days of chatrooms, before Facebook made it easy to find people to flirt with who know your youthgroup carpool/papier mache class teacher and thus can't be rapists? Yeah chatroom days sucked. The letters ASL still creep me out a bit.

ASL is of course an acronym that stands for "Age/Sex/Location." It was the shortest of shorthand for two strangers to figure out the legality, proximity and possible offensiveness to Rome that a sexual encounter with one another might have. Or it just might help them find someone to weep about puppy abuse to over long late night chats with the occasional webcam shot of a nip slip. I'm so glad we live in the future. (It became the future in the last couple months, mostly due to incessant nostalgia caused by decade lists + iPad gossip.)

Anyway, acronymy has always been around (what's up AIDS, AOL, CBS! Except AIDS is a fancy kind where you say it like it's spelled, like NATO), but the internet has generated acronyms for much more bizarre things than transnational corporations, diseases and military projects.

In fact, most of them are bodily responses, like "rolling on the ground laughing my fat ass off," and they are often exaggerations. How often do you roll on the ground laughing your fat ass off? Wow! That often? You stoner!

I think lots of internet-generated acronyms function to "mark" speakers as insiders of a certain community. Often they generate to form unnecessary, yet highly specific and exaggerated phrases, and their main merit is that being able to decode them shows that you know what's what. You're on the pulse of what 13-year-olds are saying, and as marketers know, that's where the money is.

Of course, they do have a tone-indication function. If you said something totally funny in a chatroom and i answered, "that was funny," you might think i was being sarcastic and dry, like usual. But if I responded with a gentle "lol," you'd get that in person I'd be chuckling. This is obvious, huh?

Benefits of acronymy:
-Faster typing
-Faster texting
-Faster reading
-In-group marking
-Tone inflection

Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Trend Toward Phonetic Spelling

Spot the misspelled words!

Gurl, sup, chillen, ur, prolly, ho and kno.

But don't h8; these might be better spellings than the ones we currently have.

English spelling could use a retooling, although a conscious effort to retool it is not the route that would achieve this. Nope, it would have to trickle into a new era, caused mostly by all the horny people on chatrooms who are too busy uploading fake pics of themselves to worry about prescriptive linguistics. Currently the spelling is more historical than phonetic, with words preserved to give a clue to their origins more than their pronunciation. The common usage of phonetically spelt-out words will eventually make English a language that is easier to learn, which will benefit people with less access to educational tools and the poor ol' rest of the world that has to learn English to watch "Gilmore Girls" and get a job at the new global Best Buys poppin' up everywhere.

"So why is the "k" still on "kno"?" you might ask.

Probably because its homonym, the word "no," is so common, and spelling them the same way is less practical than just keeping the "k" for differentiation purposes.

This section NERDS ONLY

English is one of the least phonetically written alphabetic languages out there. In fact, some linguists think that English is partly a pictographic language because the spelling is so inconsistent that we have to visually memorize what words look like. Remember trying to memorize spelling "daughter" as a kid? Tricky tricky stuff. Part of the reason English is so confusing is because historically when it adopted new words, it did not rationalize them into its own spelling system. That's why we spell "tortilla" with two l's instead of "torteeya." (Of course there was some transliteration, especially for languages that don't use the latin alphabet, but even then, there's little consistency. Chinese transliterations, I believe, are based on a Russian system. That's why you can't pronounce them right and PROLLY embarrass yourself. Do you say Zhang as "Zayng" or "Jahng"? It's the latter.) The base structure of most native words incorporates both Germanic-based and Latin-based phonetic spelling systems, as well as spelling from the surrounding areas.

Here's a sample:

Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

Christopher is Greek (thus the "ch"), Columbus is Latin, the "ed" ending on "sailed" is of Germanic origin, ocean is Greek again and blue is from French of course.

And cuz most people aren't nerds like me, they don't care. They just want to spell things quickly, rationally and effectively.

Letter repetition

In the above conversation you will notice two uses of repeated letters, both consonants and vowels.
I noticed this happens a lot in American English ONLINE, and I think its primary purpose is to provide an emotional inflection and convey the tone of the statement.
"Why not just use more precise words to convey your tone?" a fussy person might ask.
Because, we're just chattin' teach, and we don't care to. This way is more expedient, and works just as well.

The main tones to be inferred by letter repetition are:

Enthusiasm: Not a scientific fact or anything, but I think enthusiastic inflection via this method tends to happen on vowels. "Oooh!" "Yaaaay," for example, because that mimics natural speech, where a cry of excitement would expel more air via a longer vowel.

A lack of enthusiasm: Drawing out the last letter in a word (often a consonant) can express what in real conversation would be a promotion of the word's stress in the sentence. For example, "Let's nottt go to see 'When in Rome.'"

Sarcasm: The same can also denote sarcasm. "She looks just like a modelllll. Not." Drawing out the last letter can imply in speech it would be mocked.

The basic lesson here is that adding an extra letter (or letters) marks a word, letting the other person know that the speaker (or typer) has an unexpected relationship to the word in the context of the sentence.

Isn't that just totally dumbbbbb? No? Yaaaaay.

American English ONLINE

I don't have to write a thesis anymore because I'm not important enough. Instead, I'll publish the same ideas on my blog.

Dirty, messy, misspelled, trashy chatroom English gets a bad rap, but it's most likely what our language (or its offspring) will look like in the future. I'll explain why American English Online is motivated by logical, pragmatic factors. Ooh! Don't H8, u'll totes lern something.