“You’ve Got Mail!”

Ah … I just received a private message from someone named “Stuart”! How exciting!

Except … I actually receive a number of private messages from the same online dating site every single day. That may very well make me sound popular, and maybe even “drop-dead-gorgeous”, but funnily enough, despite all the private messages I receive, I don’t have an active profile!

You see, despite my skepticism regarding online dating, one cold evening when feeling a little downhearted and dangerously close to old (as we all feel sometimes), I decided, “Oh, what the hell!”, and signed up to a dating website that is supposedly for busy professionals. However, after the initial sign-up, I decided that I had no interest in filling in one of those long-winded online profiles about who I am, and who I’m looking for.  I soon realised that I am just too busy to have the time for a relationship, nor do I even want one at the moment. If I did, I would have surely taken the time to fill in the profile. More to the point, if I had spent quality time in writing a full profile to ensure others know who I am, to attract a potential mate based upon my personality and mutual interests, etc., how many people would actually take the time to really read all of my (or any other person’s) profile, anyway…?

Generally speaking, most people will see a pretty face and it will prompt them to send a message to that person. After a bit of online tittle-tattle and abbreviated messages (“hw bout we go 2 pub sum time”), they will go on a date with someone who is probably highly incompatible with them, never having actually read the person’s profile properly in the first place. But, maybe I am being completely unfair. Whilst I always take the time to read another person’s words carefully, I do get the impression that not everyone is quite so thorough.

The fact that I am receiving so many messages from people like “Stuart”, when my profile has bugger all on it (not even a photo!), may perhaps, go some way in substantiating my suspicion.

On the other hand, it certainly seems to corroborate the reports on the increasing number of fraudulent profiles circulating the web, and serves as a reminder as to how we should remain vigilant where our online security is concerned.

I, for one, will be sticking to the old-fashioned method of meeting potential partners via real-life interaction.

As for Stuart… Perhaps he is an online rogue of some description, or an escort touting for business, or maybe he genuinely is a very lonely and desperate man, whom I should give the benefit of the doubt. After all, he does seem compelled to message people regardless of whether they actually have a profile or not. Poor guy.

Let us hope that “Stuart”, “James”, “Will”, “Tom”, et al, will all find true love one day.

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Do “Too Many Tweets Make A Tw*t”?

Public opinion of the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, has just about reached an all-time low, but it appears that our dear Mr CamWrong may have been “right” about one thing …

Twitter.

During an interview on Absolute Radio, back in 2009, David Cameron was asked by presenter Christian O’Connell whether he used Twitter.

“Politicians do have to think about what we say,” Mr Cameron stated, seemingly without irony, before bestowing the following howler upon us: “The trouble with Twitter, the instantness of it – too many twits might make a twat.”

Despite the absurd irony of Mr Cameron’s ineptness, his statement is made all the more ironic by the fact the Conservative Party had a twitter account, and not to mention that Mr Cameron now also has a Twitter account for No. 10 Downing Street. Therefore, it would seem that one “twit” in particular, really can “make a tw*t”.

As a user of Twitter, my opinion about the site is somewhat mixed. I am often bemused by the sheer ludicrousness that some people manage to incorporate into just 140 characters. Because of the 140 character limit, one can often be subjected to a long list of multiple tweets from the same person(s); full of ridiculously abbreviated words, and depending on who one is following, may result in a trail of absolute nonsense trawling up the newsfeed.

Whilst I like to think I am a little more selective about who I follow, one does come across some real “gems” retweeted by others, sometimes retweeted purely for comedy value.

Just take a look at some of these examples:

Let us not forget the way Twitter was used to incite the London Riots, whilst bystanders tweeted their riot “observations”, or riot warnings to others. Quite often, it emerged that a ridiculous number of tweets provided nothing other than false information. Yet, the false information spread like wildfire, such as rumours about the streets of a West London borough apparently being set in flames, only for nervous residents to later discover that the worst event to have actually occurred in that particular area, was a brick thrown through a shop window! What a kick in the teeth to the people who genuinely were affected by the Riots, and who lost their homes in the fires in Croydon, Tottenham, Hackney, etc. However, it must also be pointed out that Twitter also played an important role in the post-riots clean-up, which gave the police a means of tracing those who incited and recruited other rioters.

One disturbing aspect of Twitter is that regulating the site is virtually impossible because of the massive volume of messages and tweets that are sent every second. On the subject of immediacy, as also mentioned by Mr. Cameron, it can only take so much as one misinformed tweet for a false rumour to become a worldwide trend in minutes, as we have seen in the past, ranging from the apparent “death” of a celebrity, down to their so-called sordid affairs. There is a great deal of misinformation and sometimes sheer nastiness. But none of this is a special feature of Twitter, as it is a feature of people generally. Furthermore, it is very difficult to pick up on humour and sarcasm via Twitter (and, indeed, other social media sites), leading to many misunderstandings and quarrels. One careless or false tweet has the potential of giving information capable of ruining lives and relationships. But, on a more positive note, celebrities and high-profile people have utilised  Twitter’s immediacy as a way of “setting the record straight” about a rumour,  and to engage with their fans, and even form more of a following.

I must confess that I do love Twitter as a means of keeping up-to-date with current affairs. Twitter is a fantastic forum for learning of any errors in news reporting and for academics to promote general public understanding of their research. It is also a wonderful forum for lawyers, politicians, and and journalists to share information such as links, viewpoints, and to receive instant feedback. It is now becoming common for interesting legal trials to be live-tweeted and debated by legal scholars, and for the mainstream media to subsequently try and catch-up! Whilst one may have to sift through some rather trivial tweets, there are so many high-profile academics who are happy to share a fresh insight and engage in very interesting topical debates. As a result of instant tweeting and academic blogging, newspaper reports are now becoming old news that contribute little additional value to what one has already learned “straight from the horses’ mouths” on Twitter.

Some university departments are also increasingly using Twitter as a teaching resource, and whilst it may seen that nothing of value could possibly be written in only 140 characters; for all the bizarre tweets full of abbreviations that I sometimes think only the person who tweeted it could possibly understand,  I have also very often been pleasantly surprised. The restriction in communicating with just 140 characters can be a very useful learning method: It teaches one how to be more succinct by forcing one to stick with the facts, and not swaying off topic, which would result in a long series of multiple tweets. That, after all, might lead to a mass exodus of followers, as they become increasingly more frustrated with having to sift through the vast number of irrelevant tweets on their news-feed.

Taking the latter into account, maybe too many tweets really do make a “twat”. However, too many tweets might actually rid you of some, too!

Cheerio, chaps!

‘Hate peepz who typ lyk dis’? The Reason Why Text-Type May Be More Scholarly Than You Think.

Just a quick glance at the Facebook page or Twitter feed of today’s modern teenagers gives us an insight into today’s standard of English literacy. “Y do teenz lyk 2 typ lyk dis”? Alas, I do not think the elder generations will ever really understand the trend.

Maybe “dis way of writin” could actually be considered more scholarly than we care to believe. Perhaps the English language is merely reverting back to Old English or Frisian! Fashions do, after all, repeat themselves, and maybe the same is beginning to happen with regards the English language.

Just a moment ago, I was reading an old book that I stumbled across: ‘The Cambridge History of the English Language: (Vol 1): the Beginnings to 1066’ by Richard M. Hogg, and was reminded how Frisian, a West Germanic language spoken in the province of Friesland, Netherlands, and parts of northern Germany, is the closest relative of English. In fact, Frisia was once a powerful and independent kingdom from the c.7th century, but lost its independence by the 15th century.

To summarise, Old English and Frisian were, at one time, mutually intelligible. After the Battle of Hastings, English became influenced by Norman French, whilst Frisian became influenced more by the Dutch language. Frisian is similar to English in that both languages are rich in vowels, diphthongs and triphthong; but unlike Germanic languages, have nasal vowels, similar to Afrikaans. The Frisian “r” is similar to the English alveolar “r”, as opposed to an uvular sound in German or Dutch.

An extract from ‘Beowulf’, a poem written in Old English.

I was interested to hear the languages spoken, and a search on YouTube led me to a rather interesting documentary presented by Eddie Izzard, that was previously part of a series called ‘Mongrel Nation’, once featured on The Discovery Channel. In one of episode, Eddie Izzard learnt a few Old English phrases, and subsequently took a trip to Friesland to meet a local Frisian-speaking farmer. Interestingly, Izzard asked the farmer if he could buy a cow, speaking in Old English, and the farmer understood most of the conversation. An excerpt from the series can be found here.

To understand my observation about teenagers’ “text talk” being similar to Old English or Frisian, just observe the following example:

Frisian: Ik wolde net lyk it te rein oer de neist wyk.
English: I would not like it to rain over the next week.

Notice any similarities there? (“lyk” = “like”, etc.)

Also, notice how in spoken English, certain regional dialect tends to be a little sloppy by dropping letters from the ends of words. Thus, observe the following:

Frisian: Bûter, brea, en griene tsiis is goed Ingelsk en goed Frysk
English: Butter, bread and green cheese is good English and good Frisian

I am sure if teenagers realised that their style of writing/speaking  is scholarly enough to be comparable to Old English or Frisian, the latest trend of “text talk” would soon appear less “cool”, and perhaps we might gradually see it begin to fizzle out.

I am sure that would come as a relief to some of us.

If the English language is reverting back to Old English, perhaps Old English fashion will also repeat itself? Who reckons we’ll be seeing this example of 11th century “chic” worn by today’s teenagers…? … Maybe not.