The Word Made Flesh: Show Some Emotion!

Read at your own risk

This document dates from the early web period, and is kept for archival purposes only. It is no longer updated, and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate.
  1. Conversational Norms On The Net
  2. The Word Made Flesh

Nothing Left To Do But :*) :*) :*)

Like any community, net folks have developed their own personal slang to help them get along and to help them get into trouble. The most common slang are the emoticons. Emoticons stand in for body language on the net. They’re left and iconic, rather than right and detailed. Two emoticons are used by far the most often: the smiley and the frown.

• The Smiley is :*)

• The Frown is :*(

If you tilt your head to the left, you can see the faces. (You might have to use your imagination, especially if it has atrophied from too many years of prime-time television.) An art form has developed creating new and obtuse emoticons. The smiley and the frown, however, can handle most situations. The smiley shows happiness, or emphasizes the punchline of a bad joke. The frown shows sadness, or disapproval towards a third party.

Show Some Emotion!: Acronyms

You’ll also see acronyms on the net like crazy. Internet users are the laziest typists in the world. The most common acronym is IMO, sometimes seen as IMHO, which are “In My Opinion” and “In My Humble Opinion”. Usually, these are used by people who just realized they said something that could be mistaken for a fact, and they don’t want to have to back it up. It’s a mistake, of course, because they’ll be asked anyway.

One variation on this is IMNSHO, “In My Not-So Humble Opinion”. Someone’s itching for a fight. They want you to ask for cites.

Don’t let them down.

• RTFM means read the fucking manual. If you’re in a family newsgroup, people will claim it means read the fine manual, but they’re lying and they know it.

• ROTFL or ROFL is Rolling on the Floor Laughing

• YMMV is Your Mileage May Vary, and means that what the writer just said may not apply to all situations. Don’t sue when it turns out she was only talking about people wearing parachutes.

Creative Spellings

Most people on the net can’t spell any better than Dan Quayle. The rest of us choose not to spell correctly. “Creative” spelling has a strong tradition in pre-Webster English and it’s making a comeback in computers and the net. Shakespeare used it all the time, and he was no slouch when it came to literacy. You can combine words or misspell words to make a point. Usually, misspelling a word deliberately shows disapproval towards the subject at hand. The letter ‘K’ is unfortunately common in political discussions. Some people think Amerika is heading towards Nazism under Herr Klinton, for example. :*(

In discussions about the net in relation to the real world, you’ll occasionally see “net.” used as a prefix; it’s pronounced “net dot”. A net.hero (“net dot hero”) is a hero of the net, as opposed to the real world. Using “net.” is a sure sign of net.geekdom. This is from the Windows and CP/M world. Filenames had “dots” to separate the file’s name from the file’s type. Those of us who use Macintoshes are above that sort of thing. Those of us who use Unix should be above it. But the tradition lives on in net.lingo.

Show Some Emotion!: Yelling

There are ways of emphasizing and yelling, even on the net. The three basic ways of emphasizing a word or phrase is with asterisks, underscores, and all-capitals.

Asterisks are like “bolding” the text. Underscores are like “italicizing”. All-capitals are just plain yelling.

Use emphasis sparingly. Use all-capitals hardly ever. If you were speaking in person, would you grab your listener by the throat and yell in their ear? In that case, all capitals are appropriate. Otherwise, hang back and calm down.

And don’t forget the exclamation point and the question mark. No need to throw out the tried and true just because you have a few new tools.

Buzz!!!! *Wrong* answer.

Hello??? McFly? Anybody *in* there?

See also _Das Boot_ as a precursor to _Operation Petticoat_.

Show Some Emotion!: Whisper

It’s harder to whisper than it is to yell. On the net, everyone can hear you scream, but not many can perceive a whisper.

All lower-case is one way of whispering, but there are still apparently a lot of people who can only type in one case, and they choose lower-case over upper-case so that they don’t look like complete jackasses.

You can put words and phrases into asides by using parentheses—and nested parentheses (which occur when you make an aside about an aside (or if you can’t control your stream of consciousness (as I seem to be having trouble with right now (what was I talking about?)))) are commonly used as well. Note that I have as many “close” parentheses as I have “open” parentheses. Otherwise, your reader never leaves the feeling that they’re reading an “aside”.

Show Some Emotion!: Stuttering

We pause and stutter all the time in normal conversation. I do, at least, but then I’m a computer geek. Pauses may not say much, but they carry a heavy load of information.

“What do you think of my parents?”

“... they’re okay...”

“They’re okay.”

Big difference, what? Ellipses are an invaluable part of net.writing. So is “hemming” and “hawing”. “Ahem”. “Errr.” “Hm...” Onomatopoeia lives on the Internet.

Simple High School English

High school English classes teach you how to write for high school English teachers. They don’t teach you how to write to your friends.

Your English teacher would dismember you with an ax if you used ellipses, nested parentheses, emphasis, and creative spelling as much as we do on the net, but your English teacher isn’t here. She’s off at Playgirl On-Line.

You’re on your own, and you’d better make sure people know what you mean when you say it.

  1. Conversational Norms On The Net
  2. The Word Made Flesh