Have you noticed you’ve stopped using a full-stop to end your sentences in text/IM? Have you ever received a message with a full-stop and thought, “that person must be pissed at me”? Are you sick and tired of rhetorical questions?
This is an unlikely heel turn in linguistics. In most written language, the period is a neutral way to mark a pause or complete a thought; but digital communications are turning it into something more aggressive. “Not long ago, my 17-year-old son noted that many of my texts to him seemed excessively assertive or even harsh, because I routinely used a period at the end,” Mark Liberman, a professor of linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania, told me by email. How and why did the period get so pissed off?
I finally got around to watching Objectified on Netflix tonight. It was an entertaining film overall, if not a tad contradictory. Most of the film was spent celebrating consumer goods, and lamenting the fact that precious few of us pause to think about the designer behind our potato peeler. One of the designers interviewed for the film shrugged off the idea of cell phones lasting only a year or two for most upgrade-eager users, an idea I think is pretty scary.
I’m certainly not claiming a higher ground here. I’ve owned no less than six MP3 players over the past twelve years; the 64 megabyte Rio 500 being the first, the 64 gigabyte iPod touch the current. I like shiny new things just as much as the next guy.
But the last part of the film, focussing on sustainability and smarter, less wasteful design ran completely counter to the interviews and profiles from the first part of the film. It felt like a party where there’s an open bar and piles of open cigarette cartons and everyone’s having a great time, followed by a lecture about how smoking and excessive drinking will kill you.
I’m not saying the makers of the film didn’t see or acknowledge this contradiction. Maybe it’s just the English major in me, always trying to find something to criticize so I can get a ten-page paper (or 250 word blog post) out of it.