Language and the Internet

(Axel Boer) #1

Finding an identity 89

an emphatic prefix, producing such forms ask-kool,k-awesome,
andk-k-allright. The extent to which deviant spellings and eso-
teric neologisms can be used to produce a cool jargon has been
dubbedleeguageby some. Ihnatko explains its etymology:^22 ‘Orig-
inally named in honor of Pamela Anderson Lee’s bosom, which,
like this language, is completely unnatural, constructed with tor-
tuous effort, and conforms to some vaguely perceived standard no
one comprehends.’ He gives an example:Hay!Odzrhewen2Radio
Hack4anucrys4hizrainbow boxx!^23
Punctuation tends to be minimalist in most situations, and com-
pletely absent in some e-mails and chat exchanges.^24 It is an im-
portant area, for it is the chief means a language has for bringing
writing into direct contact with (the prosody and paralanguage of)
matical construction. For Naomi Baron, punctuation ‘reveals how
writers view the balance between spoken and written language’.^25
A lot depends on personality: some e-mailers are scrupulous about
maintaining a traditional punctuation; others use it when they
have to, to avoid ambiguity; and some do not use it at all, either
as a consequence of typing speed, or through not realizing that
ambiguity can be one of the consequences. On the other hand,
there is an increased use of symbols not normally part of the tradi-
tional punctuation system, such as the #.^26 Unusual combinations
of punctuation marks can occur, such as (to express pause) ellipsis
dots (...) in any number, repeated hyphens (---), or the repeated use
of commas (,,,,). Emphasis and attitude can result in exaggerated
or random use of punctuation, such as!!!!!!!or£S/£S/%!.Some

(^22) Ihnatko (1997: 112). (^23) I don’t understand it either.
(^24) This is not the only instance where punctuation is absent. Certain genres of legal language
do without it (Crystal and Davy, 1969), and it is absent or minimal in a great deal of
advertising copy, television captions, newspaper headlines, and other ‘block language’
25 (Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech, and Svartvik, 1985: 845 ff.).
26 Baron (2000: 167).
A range of new slang names for punctuation marks has emerged: the # has been called
ahash,sharp,crunch,andcross-hatch; the tilde (∼, used to mean ‘about’ or as part of
a Web address) has been called asquiggley; an exclamation mark is abang,pling,excl,
shriek,smash,cuss,boing,yell,wow,hey,orwham, among others; the asterisk is astar,

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