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Thread: IMHO

  1. #1
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    Default IMHO

    I've been thinking a bit about that abbreviation discussion we had with Cas, as I felt there was some value in these common "forum" abbreviations, but I couldn't show it convincingly. To me, "forum" is the key word here. The Internet has brought a new kind of medium for communication, something different, with its own rules and culture. Forum discussions are somewhat between friendly correspondence and verbal chat. Informal or colloquial expressions are not out of place, slang is not prohibited, and some spoken expressions, like ungrammatical sentences that are sometimes said but rarely written, are tolerated. I would say it is pretty close to casual conversation. Therefore, people tend to use the same code, but with the extra difficulty of not having the person in front of you. While in a letter you can use the full power of the language to set the mood, the nuances and the context of what you want to say, face-to-face conversations call for a shorter and more direct style. The mood is expressed by other means, like the intonation, the facial expression, gestures etc. This is obviously not an option when communicating via a forum, so other means have been designed, naturally.
    The almighty smiley is the electronic equivalent of the facial expression, and the most striking example. Just everybody seems to rely on it today, to make sure the general tone of the message is not taken amiss. It does not come from some Apple or IBM lab; people just found a way to fill in a gap, and it spread. In my opinion, it perfectly illustrates that the forum medium is apart, and that rules from other media cannot be transposed as is. Conversely, forum rules cannot be blindly exported to other media, as it generally shows that you just failed to understand the very nature of each medium. Using smileys in an essay shows your lack of language skills, in that you could not express the meaning of the smiley with plain words, even though that is what you were expected to do.

    Smiley is not the only way to convey extra-linguistic meaning in forums. The language level, and the length of the message carry some information too. Let's take an example: "I thank you very much". This is a bit on the formal side for a forum. This generally shows real gratefulness. One can almost imagine the person bowing. If he just had said "Thank you", it would have been plainer. "Thanks" is now a bit casual; you could say that to someone who passed you the salt. You would presumably not say "Thanks" to someone who has just spent forty minutes correcting your work. Then, there are abbreviations. "TY" certainly is informal, very short, and can be compared to someone nodding, or smiling, in a conversation. You just want to show that you appreciated it, without breaking the flow of the conversation.

    The flow of the conversation is the second point. As forum messages are close to a verbal chat, people type more or less as they speak. Consequently, the flow of the speech becomes a consideration. In spoken English, one can rely on crutch words and set expressions to keep the flow of the conversation going. Some examples are: that is to say, in my opinion, by the way, by the same token etc. It takes less than one second to pronounce one of them, but it can take much longer to type, especially if you made a typo because you typed too fast and must correct it. While you are busy with the "plumbing" of your sentence, that is, typing the elements that tie your phrases and sentences together, you sort of break the flow of your speech. You spend too much time dealing with these parts, which basically only act like simple math operators, and this can distract you from your ideas and can make you lose the thread of your thoughts. This is specific to forums and similar medium, where one actually types what one would say. In computer languages, punctuation signs or extremely short keywords are used for that purpose. What does it have to do with English? Efficiency. They reduce the difference between the time it takes to think something and the time it takes to type it.

    These new ways of expressing oneself involves some risks, though. The recipient or the other readers may not get what you meant exactly. This sometimes happens with smileys; what was that wink for precisely? As for abbreviations, the recipient must know it or be able to figure it out. That is, there's some extra knowledge to acquire. In addition, the recipient may frown on the usage of such "subterfuges". English, please! Is it that troublesome to write full words? This is a question of habit, actually. People who used their cellphone in the street looked ridiculous fifteen years ago, unless they were traders, businessmen or dealing with security. Then, there is the fear that it could contaminate other media, or god forbids, the whole language. Look at this essay; youngsters cannot write English properly anymore! This is something to watch carefully for sure. It's new, it's trendy, and people who spend a lot of time on forums (eg. students) get carried away with it. Does it mean that it should be ruled out? If yes, then we should ban slang too, and any language "extension" that cannot be used safely in a paper -- even though they fulfill a function.
    Another approach is to teach students that each medium has its own rules, and that they should not be mixed up. Showing that you understand what it means, but it is not desirable for that medium is extra work, but it is probably worth it. For one this is more convincing, and from a more general perspective it doesn't look down on these real language laboratories that these new media are today. New and fast communication ways are bound to produce some monsters, but a part of tomorrow's language is certainly lying in there -- whether we like it or not.

    FRC

  2. #2
    Taka is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: IMHO

    Specifically, which forum or thread are you referring to, Francois? Could you show me an example?

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    We started to talk about that in the thread "Is or Are", or something like that. You basically have examples in many of my posts: eg. I use IMO, TY, BTW, b/c, AE, BE, FYI, sth, or some more difficult to guess like IIRC (if I recall correctly), AFAIK (as far as I know)... I hardly ever use the last two, tough. But I do use smileys
    Wai Wai is probably sticking needles in a small FRC doll right now

    FRC

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    Taka is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Francois
    Wai Wai is probably sticking needles in a small FRC doll right now

    FRC
    Sticking needles in a doll?? What??

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    You don't know voodoo?

    FRC

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    Taka is offline Senior Member
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    As far as I'm concerned, the fewer abbrevations born in the net used here, the better. I think most of the people visiting here are not necessarily good at English, much less the net-English. So, too many of abbreviations might be nothing but a trouble for those who are not good at them, especially for the beginners.

    I just use IMO and FYI simply because they are in my dictionary.

    Well, it's 2:37 A.M here in Japan. I have to sleep now.

    Talk to you later.

  7. #7
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    Sweet dreams

    FRC

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    Taka is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Francois
    You don't know voodoo?

    FRC
    You mean Wai-Wai curses you? For what?

  9. #9
    Red5 is offline Webmaster, UsingEnglish.com
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    Quote Originally Posted by Francois
    We started to talk about that in the thread "Is or Are", or something like that. You basically have examples in many of my posts: eg. I use IMO, TY, BTW, b/c, AE, BE, FYI, sth, or some more difficult to guess like IIRC (if I recall correctly), AFAIK (as far as I know)... I hardly ever use the last two, tough. But I do use smileys
    Wai Wai is probably sticking needles in a small FRC doll right now

    FRC
    Seen this? http://www.webenet.com/internetglossary.htm

    Red5
    Webmaster, UsingEnglish.com

  10. #10
    Taka is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Francois
    Sweet dreams

    FRC
    Yeh. :D

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