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Monday, June 27, 2005

On conversational abbreviations

At one point in my checkered past, I taught speech communications. My favorite units in those Speech 101 sections, dealt with non-verbal communications. I would cite a study that asserted that as much as ninety percent of our face-to-face communications with one another were paralanguage (non-verbal). Words made up only about ten percent. Pauses, pitch, rate, and visual cues made up the overwhelming majority of our “meaning” when we spoke to each other.

That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but we apes do need our visual and non-verbal cues to really tell what someone is saying. Bloggers, chatters, and those poor sick devils addicted to instant messaging are at a real disadvantage. I have been following several blog threads lately. Amazingly, there are a lot of comments posted that are only there to clarify an earlier misunderstood comment. By the time you reach the end of a comment thread, it is like the old party game “telephone”. You may have started with “War of the Worlds”, but you end with “Worms Eat the Dead Squirrels.”

The rise of emoticons and Internet slang (abbreviations) are a natural consequence of the limited non-verbal error checking that keyboard communications allows. We need some clues to know if we are communicating the correct emotions. Morse code operators have used “hihi” as an abbreviation for laughter for many, many years. (Hihi is faster to send than haha, more dots with fewer dashes. Who knew?). We need to know not only what someone is saying, but also “how” he or she is saying it.

I find emoticons to be confusing. I never did well with those “See The Hidden Sailboat” types of puzzles. Emoticons look like poor punctuation to me. I don’t really understand what ;-0 is supposed to mean. Someone closing one eye while opening his or her mouth really wide doesn’t mean anything to me. I would not be enlightened by this expression on a person’s face. I would be frightened and would try to summon medical assistance for that person.

Universally understood abbreviation could be helpful, if they were specific enough to mirror real world non-verbal cues. LOL is bit too broad. Laugh Out Loud could encompass anything from a baby’s giggle to a “Phantom of the Opera” maniacal scream. I have a few ideas for more specific abbreviations that might more closely mirror face-to-face conversations.

(FHSU) Feet Hurt Shifting Uncomfortably

(CEPTIC) Can’t Even Pretend That I Care

(LCB) Loud Creepy Breathing

(NT) Noticeable Twitch

(RBBES) Runaway Bride Bug Eyed Stare

(LPFBHS) Long Pause, Followed By Heavy Sigh

(IASMB) I Am Scratching My Butt

(IASCWYBIALATDTFAWTE) I Am Still Conversing With You But I Am Looking Around Trying Desperately To Find A Way To Escape

(LPBW) Long Pauses Between Words

(TSTBU) Too Southern To Be Understood

(TCTBU) Too Canadian To Be Understood

(TNYTGAD) Too New York To Give A Damn

(DOM) Drooling On Myself

(TOMOFAFOBT) Tripped Over My Own Feet And Fell Onto Buffet Table

(SCBMT) Salad Caught Between My Teeth

(CCS) Cologne Causing Seizures

(QBIN) Quiet Belch Into Napkin

(YASAITIAHMFSLDS) You Are Such An Idiot That I Am Hiding My Face So Laughter Doesn’t Show

(AOPD) Air Of Polite Disinterest

(MQTPOYGPS) Mentally Questioning The Purity Of Your Gene Pool Stare

(IANRLG) I Am Not Really Listening Gaze

(SATG) Squinting At The Glare

(RSM) Rendered Slack Mouthed

(SMICS) So Mad I Could Spit

(IASN) I Am Spitting Now

(ttftbu) TalkingTooFastToBeUnderstood

(STC) Standing Too Close

(PYOTSWMF) Poking You On The Shoulder With My Finger

(MOMC) Mustard On My Chin

(LOW) Loud Obnoxious Whine

(RBH) Really Bad Hair

(MATS) Moaning At The Stupidity

(SBTS) Stunned By The Stupidity

(RMSI) Rigor Mortis Setting In

The problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished. – George Bernard Shaw


Blogger Adinah said...

great post and a good laugh, note I didn't use abbreviations, because I don't get half of them and by the time I decipher what it may be I have forgotten what the person was saying. And another reason why I hate computers....lack of affect..and not on my part.

27/6/05 10:42 PM  
Blogger HCaldwell said...

My old roomate gave me a great one in an e-mail message. (NADAH) Need A Dumb Abbreviation Here

28/6/05 12:42 AM  
Blogger Glory said...

This is some of the funniest stuff I have read in a long time. Thank you. By the way, still waiting for you to post your list of "daily must-read" blogs.

28/6/05 4:42 PM  
Blogger alto artist said...

You are brilliant. FYI, I've shared your ideas with Echo, (, an online community in NYC always in need of fresh acronyms, where we say things like SBYLF (scroll back, you lazy, er....) all the time.

4/7/05 5:09 PM  

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