Friday, December 17, 2010

Lost in Translation

Rachel: Guess what, guess what, guess what!
Chandler: Um, OK. The fifth dentist caved and now they're all recommending Trident?

Ross: It would be so cool to live across from you guys.
Joey: Hey, yeah. Then we could do that telephone thing. Y'know, you have a can, we have a can and it's connected by a string.
Chandler: Or we can do the *actual* telephone thing.

Ross: I don't know what I'm gonna do. What am I gonna do? I mean, this, this is like a complete nightmare.
Chandler: Oh, I know, this must be so hard. "Oh no, two women love me. They're both gorgeous and sexy. My wallet's too small for my fifties AND MY DIAMOND SHOES ARE TOO TIGHT."

Audiences around the world could not get enough of Chandler Bing’s humorous sarcasm. I mean, could it have been anymore funny?

But, even Chandler Bing ran into trouble with his sarcasm. Remember the episode when people at his work were so used to his sarcasm that when he was being serious they assumed he was joking?

Sarcastic folk do run the risk of being misunderstood- especially when trying to convey sarcasm via the written word. At least, when you’re sarcastic in person, your facial expression can help convey that you’re kidding, or you are there to explain that you were just joking. When it’s written, the words are out there on their own, vulnerable to any interpretation.

So, for example, imagine I received an email from a colleague that said, “Could that holiday party have been anymore awesome?”

I wouldn’t know if he really enjoyed the party or if he was being sarcastic.

Well, today, we have something that Chandler didn’t have at his disposable back in 1995: the emoticon.

So, if my colleague really had a good time, perhaps he would have included a , and if he were being sarcastic, he may have ended with a .

Personally, I feel the same way about emoticons as I feel about fanny packs. I get it; they’re convenient and helpful, but I am not a fan.

Why? Probably the same reason I would rather lug around a handbag than strap on a fanny pack. It looks sleeker. I’d rather the writer provide a follow up sentence to clarify his or her intention than a cartoony face. For example,

“Could that holiday party have been anymore awesome? Can’t wait till next year.”


“Could that holiday party have been anymore awesome? I can already tell that next year I am going to have the stomach flu on that date.”

But, that’s just me. If you want your writing to look like a first grader’s, that’s cool.

What are your feelings about emoticons?

, , , , or

Dedicated to Walks like an Egyptian and Talli Roland


Rachael said...

Yes! I also hate emoticons. They are a cheap stand-in for figuring out how to say what you mean. I liked your fanny pack metaphor, by the way.

Joanna St. James said...

the hubs and i have total conversations with emoticons.
My dad just ignores them when I try to say something with them.
I too am a handbag girl all the way.

The Shanner of Attention said...

Hello, my name is Shannon, and I'm addicted to emoticons. :)

Husband and I often use :| when we are serious and do not want to be taken lightly. I love it.

JEFritz said...

I love emoticons and I don't think they're childish. To me, it's a way to achieve friendliness or to take the sting off of a comment. I like having the clues to people's tones/moods. In fact, I find them easier to interpret than real expressions.

But, like you said, it isn't for everyone and I certainly wouldn't use them in a business document. I just hope no one takes offense if I sign off with a smile to show no hard feelings.

Jeffrey Beesler said...

Emoticons scare me. I prefer the safety of prose over emoticons.

Boonie S said...

I don't care for emoticons. I think that they're a cop-out. I prefer to see the language used creatively, rather than a reliance on cartoons.
Great post.

Have a nice day, Boonie

Millions Of Atoms Man said...


Clyde said...

You and I think differently----I would have thought he was sarcastic with the smiley emoticon----
Now if you are every comming to Australia, you have to stop saying fanny pack---people get investigated for saying they kissed their child on the fanny---
Another bit of bastardised English

WalksLikeAnEgyptian said...

Yay! I feel so special!

I used to dislike emoticons. A lot. But nearly everyone I talk to in Internetlandia uses them, so I guess I picked up the habit. I like the point about using language creatively instead - especially since I love me some good grammar.

I will say, however, that I am proudly against the use of "LOL".

Guinevere said...

Oh, I hate emoticons. But... I still use the :) a lot in my online communications as a safety net. I don't want everyone to think I'm being more... well, mean... than I really intend, when I just want to be funny.

David L Macaulay said...

In the immortal words of Japan I second that emoticon

Julie Musil said...

So sorry, but I love and use emoticons! And I could totally hear Chandler Bing speaking those words. I've seen every episode over and over again :-)

Alesa Warcan said...

Hmm... Overall I don't like graphic emoticons. Horrid splashes of of color in my beautiful dreams of cream paper and india ink black. And lets not even speak of the loathsome things that move and make sounds at you!
That said, I find ascii emoticons useful.

For me, the thing is where and when you are using them. In quick comments or a rapid IM exchanges emoticons provide compact and instantaneous emotional qualifiers; information that would normally be conveyed by body language in face to face communication. For now, it serves its purpose.

Btw, Chandler very probably was using emoticons at his workplace... Though I don't recall actually seeing him doing it. It would just make sense from the circumstantial information available. Emoticons were already becoming common in the mid-nineties. : j

MartyrMom said...

I was gonna say what Alesa said only slower! Actually I would have never finished the post ;)

The Invisible Seductress said...

I'm with you on this.. It bothers me too when I get just an lol or lmao....No you really did not just laugh out loud!! Stop being a liar!!! But that's just me.

and I am weird ;}

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

I know it. They're so corny :P But they sure do help out on Twitter when you only have 140 characters! LOL :D

Sometimes, I forget to have a follow up sentence or an emoticon and people don't realize I'm being sarcastic. That they're supposed to laugh! Yeah, totally awesome...NOT!

(This is what we did in high school to indicate sarcasm, back before we had emoticons. We were so clever back then...)

Hart Johnson said...

I've never really picked them up, but I don't mind their use in... say facebook statuses... a brief response type thing they seem well suited. I was participating in Harry Potter forums about 6 years ago because... you know... I'm a Potter geek, and between cultural differences and age differences (in a day PRIOR to widespread emoticon use) we developed a few shortcuts (after hard lessons of people being really offended)... things like [/sarcasm] or *wink*

I think the full sentence is overkill in a chat forum, but I do prefer words to faces... that's just how I roll.

HulaBuns said...

I don't mind them, but I do agree that writing looks sleeker without them. Also, I probably use them too much, especially in comments. :)

Theresa Milstein said...

Oh, Chandler and his sarcasm. I loved his character.

I'm often sarcastic and run across the same problem with e-mail. I go with a wink. ; )

Let the semicolon get a little love. Or is it semi-colon? ; )

See how effective.

At least I refrain from LOL.

Constar said...

i love this post! mostly because i used to watch Friends on thursdays every night and knew which episodes those lines came from!

oh emoticons? see i like them for certain reasons. For instance i think that when texting its hard to text without sounding a bit rude or any other reaction you didnt mean to give off.

So ya sometimes i dabble in a little :P face or even an LOL to take the edge off! lol <-- couldnt think of a better way to end the post.