Category Archives: language

Who Did You Ask?

I am currently writing a paper on the enregisterment of Internet language as deviating from Standard English, creating its own dialect, and even perhaps a pidgin. I am very excited about how it turned out, and I found some great research on the topic. But I also found a lot of biased research, and I am curious how no one figured out the faulty assumption under which they were operating.
A lot of the research of how texting and social networking has affected the written word nationwide was based on self analysis on the part of the researchers. The researchers are well educated people who typically speak and write in complete sentences. Does anyone see a problem here? It was no surprise that they found little to no problems when analyzing their own texts. For instance, Lauren Squires wrote an amazing article, “Enregistering Internet Language.” However, she bases a large part of her conclusion on her analysis of her own IM conversations. I can only assume that someone who writes as well as she does is not engaging in sub par language use.
For example, in my informal speech such as texts, or chat conversations, I tend to speak in complete sentences. I am aware I use ellipses a lot, but even in between all the dots I form coherent thoughts. For those of you who know me, you are aware that I end most texts with “…” This does not mean anything is to follow. No, I have ended the sentence there. I just, for whatever reason, trail off with a series of dots instead of a period. I also use “…” instead of commas. Again, for no particular reason. I like to think that that is my way of mimicking actual speech in which my voice slightly trails off as opposed to an abrupt stop. Who knows.
Regardless, I do not abbreviate words unnecessarily, do not use “u” instead of “you,” and I most certainly do not combine numbers and letters as if playing bingo with someone over the phone. However, other people do just that. So, if I were to conduct some sort of research on texting trends, I would in no way assume that analyzing my own would be indicative of the population at large.
In fact, one of my friends who teaches English constantly complains of how his students continuously insert these lovely texting habits into formal papers. He was tempted to fail a student just last semester (quarter?) for writing “u,” “b4” and other such nonsense into her final paper.
So when all these articles are telling me that the Internet and texting has not overall changed the way in which people communicate, I am a little suspicious. Especially when the researchers are telling me their sample group is themselves and ten of their closest friends, who also just happen to be well educated and coherent speakers of the English language. Hrm… 

Lost in Translation

I was up for the better part of the night trying to figure out the real reason I don’t respond in the same way to translated poetry. I am always just a little disappointed, even when it is wonderfully done. I realized it is not the translation. It is the fact that I know something is different. I know what it was “supposed to” be like, and anything else is just not the same.
And then there is the richness in vocabulary. The English language is very versatile allowing you to pick from dozens of words to create meaning, elide meaning, allude to meaning, and basically waltz around a subject to your heart’s content, never directly stating the obvious. Other languages don’t always allow this. There aren’t as many words. Romanian, for example, has speckles of beauty, but for the most part is a sturdy language, raw and unassuming. And within that rawness is the beauty. In translation it becomes beautiful, but altered. The words become ornamented and refined… but diluted.
The original is gritty, but reaches sophistry in a different way. It stuns with observation, plainly exposing itself and its subject. Sometimes it becomes almost uncomfortable to bear, hence my reactions. And the fact that I can’t get those poems out of my head.
It is also why I like poetry in English that does the same thing. Those poems that don’t rely on tricks to sound and look pretty, but rather touch nerves with words. And I am willing to bet that if some of my favorite English poems were translated, they would lose something too. I suppose they would lose their ambience.
At some point in the middle of the night I realized I associate poetry in different languages with different adjectives. English poetry is ambient. Romanian is raw. French is playfully direct. German is functional. Italian is indirect. (Unfortunately I don’t understand enough Spanish to have an adjective for what I feel the language does). This is how I see these languages moving, how their poets pick their words, and what those words achieve.
So when I read Eminescu translated, and I felt a lack… of something… it was just the normal flow of language as it changes from one mode, one adjective, to another. A translator cannot perform pure alchemy on words, raw cannot fully be transformed into ambient , any more than functional into indirect, or any other combination.