Language and the Internet

(Axel Boer) #1


This moves the convention more in the direction of stream-of-
consciousness narrative. And the feedback function of emotes is
also important, conveyed not only through conventional verbs
(‘X agrees/nods/grins’) but by idiosyncratic word-formation:

Largo hehs. [‘says heh’]
Jon acks. [‘acknowledges’]
Anthony ohboys.
Pete actuallies.

The practice of word-class conversion has the best of precedents:
‘grace me no grace, nor uncle me no uncle’ (Richard II, II.iii.86),
though the use of adverb>verb and interjection>verb processes
is admittedly daring.
The narrative style of emotes gives a somewhat literary flavour
to the interaction, which sits oddly alongside the often highly col-
loquial tone of the direct speech. A sequence such as the follow-
ing – a piece of word-play, a stereotypical literary description, a
conversational interjection, and a somewhat contrived adjectival
construction – is not at all unusual:

lynn says, ‘leggo my Lego Tom’
Bunny eyes Ray warily.
lynn [to Penfold]: hrmph
Ray puts the annoying electronic bell in the Christmas tree.

This is an extract from the ElseMOO group studied by Cherny.^16
The ‘eye warily’ locution is an emote, introduced by ElseMOO
players, which caught on, becoming a frequent part of its dialectal
idiom (‘X eyes Y warily’, ‘X eyes himself warily’). They would use it
essentially as a signal of unease, letting others know that there was
some hidden implication or irony in what had just been said. The
device falls within the genre of literary allusions, such as is found
with Tom Swifties and other self-conscious, humorous linguistic
play.^17 Other MUDs have developed their own favourite words and

(^16) Cherny (1999: 143). A wide range of linguistic routines used in ElseMOO is illustrated
17 on her pp. 96ff.
For Tom Swifties, see Crystal (1995: 409).

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