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Jim Walker: The proliferation of puzzlement

Don't Take Me Seriously

Posted: November 4, 2011 10:37 a.m.
Updated: November 4, 2011 10:37 a.m.

Things were so much simpler, back in the caveman days.


Social interactions were so basic that language of any sort was unnecessary.

If you were trying to warn your fellows about a cave bear, you pantomimed a big-old bear and pointed toward where he was. If you wanted something from someone, say his food, tool or mate, you just took it (assuming you were bigger than he was) and left him to wail ineffectually.

A smack upside the head with a rock settled any issue.

However, over the millennia, the evolvement of good manners, language and written forms of communication have tremendously increased the odds you will be misunderstood.

Consider language. The spoken word is rarely precise enough for the task at hand. In fact, the more words you use, the more opportunity there is for error. And, beyond that, the development of language led immediately to the development of lying. So that's a big black mark against it from the start.

Now, writing offered benefits over speaking, in that writing gave you time to more closely craft what you wanted to communicate, and was locked-in as far as what the reader saw on the page.

There could be no later waffling about what was actually "said" because it was still on the page.

However, writing lacks the eye contact, facial expressions, voice inflections and body language that help enhance spoken communication.

For example, sarcasm rarely comes through in the written word. And you can't lean in dangerously for emphasis when you write threatening letters to the editor.

Email, of course, took writing backward, in that email is rarely finely tuned or crafted, merely popped off as expediency demands. Confusion reigns supreme.

And, currently, the shining zenith of the modern opportunity to go wrong ... is texting.

Texting has taken the inherent errors of long-form written communication and exponentially enhanced them by abbreviation. And if you add auto-complete into the mix - well, you are just begging for trouble.

So, just for fun, let's take a look at the increasing confusion in communication in its various forms. And here I shamelessly borrow from the experiences of others.

Point to be made: "I hate you."
Nonverbal communication: Rock to the head.
Spoken word: "My mom's in town, so I can't make your party."
Texting: "IH8U"
Texting with auto-complete: "I Hutu"

Point to be made: "I want you."
Nonverbal communication: Roofie in drink.
Spoken word: "I really admire your work."
Texting: "?^"
Texting with auto-complete: "Hook up?"

Point to be made: "My hair is black now."
Nonverbal communication: Point to hair emphatically.
Spoken: "I have black hair now."
Texting: "hv blk hr now"
Texting with auto-complete: "I have back hair now."

Point to be made: "Your mom and I are going to Disneyland next month."
Nonverbal communication: Show Disneyland tickets
Spoken word: "Going to Disneyland next month."
Texting: "yr mom n I gng 2 Dis next mo"
Texting with auto-complete: "Your mom and I are going to divorce next month."

Point to be made: "He's outside, riding his bicycle."
Nonverbal communication: Pantomime it and point (can be very funny)
Spoken word: "He's outside, riding his bicycle."
Texting: "hs rdng hs biskl"
Texting with auto-complete: "He's riding his bisexual."

Point to be made: "I have Super Bowl fever."
Nonverbal communication: Heisman Trophy pose
Spoken word: With Heisman pose, "I gots the feva."
Texting: "hv spr bwl fvr."
Texting with auto-complete: "I have super bowel fever."

Point to be made: "I'm visiting my grandparents."
Nonverbal communication: Point to your eyes and then act really old.
Spoken word: "Seeing my grandparents."
Texting: "Sng mi grndpts
Texting with auto-complete: "Singed my granny panties."

Point to be made: "I like mango salsa."
Nonverbal communication: If the salsa is present, grab it and run.
Spoken word: "Dude, I like mango salsa big time."
Texting: "I lk mgo slsa bt"
Texting with auto-complete: "I like manhole sauce, boy toy."

I'm just sayin', things are getting confusing.

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