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Tuesday Watercooler


I really appreciated Dr. Noam Chomsky’s response to a recent question about Building 7 of the World Trade Center. Because Science Is Real. Too bad this won’t make anyone move on. Thanks to RT for this link.

Exclamation and question marks made from puzzle pieces.

How do we communicate tone in online communication?

I also appreciated the descriptivist approach Ben Crair took in this New Republic article about the changing use of punctuation in digital communication. He could have spent the article bemoaning how “the kids” are destroying the English language with their texting and tweeting, but instead we get this interesting development:

The period was always the humblest of punctuation marks. Recently, however, it’s started getting angry. I’ve noticed it in my text messages and online chats, where people use the period not simply to conclude a sentence, but to announce ‘I am not happy about the sentence I just concluded.’

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?

‘In the world of texting and IMing … the default is to end just by stopping, with no punctuation mark at all,’ Liberman wrote me. ‘In that situation, choosing to add a period also adds meaning because the reader(s) need to figure out why you did it. And what they infer, plausibly enough, is something like “This is final, this is the end of the discussion or at least the end of what I have to contribute to it.”‘

Thanks Dana Sayre for this link.

What’s on your mind tonight? Got questions? The Watercooler is an open conversation.

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Kit OConnell

Kit OConnell

Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and radical troublemaker from Austin, Texas. He is the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Shadowproof. Kit's investigative journalism has appeared in Truthout, MintPress News and