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Entries tagged 'cat:Peeves'

Analogue, Digital, Meaninglessness

((Oh, I forgot to fill this one with a content part until now.))

Yeah, I have some peeves about the use of language. I don't think it's just being unable to accept that language changes. I get and accept that. I use words and phrases that wouldn't have made any sense and sometimes noticeably aren't understood by earlier generations. I use nouns as verbs. I use abbreviations where it isn't necessary because it sounds more hip or carries the right (e.g. ironic) undertone. I sometimes use sentence structured that weren't accepted as being correct when I was in school. I use words that, without context, have a different meaning from what I intend them to mean because the stand in a context that I expect my listener to accept as giving the term a different meaning or connotation. I use the singular them and other things many people find wrong. And I don't mind if other people are doing the same things. What I think unnecessarily changing a language by using it wrongly is using a word to mean something it doesn't mean and has never meant because the speaker is confusing the work with another, similar one. It's misspelling a word because the author assumes that spelling doesn't matter. It's placing a comma in a sentence because it looks better, not because it belongs there. It's mixing up and combining proverbs or other expressions as if they didn't have any meaning. It's using a word that has meaning as a filling word, or just because it sounds good, and expecting the listener to know that the speaker didn't mean that (despite saying it). I don't always speak and write in my first language and I know other's are using languages that are fairly new or very new to them.

In other words: I mostly consider it wrong use of language to use a phrase or word to say something else than what almost all or all speakers of that language had already accepted that phrase or word to mean. I don't mind people writing "tho" instead of "though" or "thats" instead of "that's" (although a "its" can hinder my reading flow). But writing "would of" instead of "would have" or "would've" is a really bad habit. "Would" and "of" have a meaning. And while my mind tries to figure out what the author is trying to say by using those words before coming to the conclusion that they aren't, my brain could have processed three more sentences instead. I don't mind it when people only use lower case letters. But switching case every other letter is just inconsiderate to the reader. I don't care how wrong you spell the word "figuratively". But if you spell it "literally" (which literally means the opposite) then you're just using the wrong word.

One of these mistakes (according to me) that has made it into the daily usage is "analogue". That word has completely changed it's meaning, which I find fascinating. I mean, there are worse examples of words having their meaning changed over time by being used differently than before. But this one appears relevant to me because by being used with its new meaning it conveys less information that the words that already existed before "analogue" was used in this way. I suppose it started with "digital". Digital: of or relating to the fingers or toes. Okay, that's an even more original meaning that what I mean here. "Digital" has been used in electronics for a long time to describe data that is recorded or displayed in a form of a countable number of steps. The digital clock displays the time in distinguishable steps of 60 minutes per hour (and 60 seconds per minute if it has a seconds display). There is no in-between. The analogue clock ("analogue" being used as a sort of opposite of "digital" here) on the other hand (picture a sundial here) only always shows the exact representation of now, which may be between two seconds, between femtoseconds, between whatever digital (/countable) unit you make up. Every moment in time has an analogue on the sundial.

So saying a recording (be it a cardiogram or a piece of music) is analogue or digital means exactly that. It's either stored as sound waves on an analogue medium or by storing numbers from a limited predefined range on a digital medium. That's why it's sometimes said that analogue audio recordings sound better than digital recordings.

So, what does that have to do with the internet and mass-communication? As far as I can figure out nothing except vague connotations in one area or another. Implied associations relying on context that ranges from "how this person has used the term before on this channel" to "what has been discussed on other channels on which the person using the term has read and participated in over the recent years" (which listeners can't or at least shouldn't be expected to know). "Digitally" is often used to mean "something related to or involving electronic devices", or "using technologies that are capable of mass-communication", or just "in a modern way in which it hasn't commonly be done in the past". But it can also just mean "digitally", in which case "machine-readable" can also be implied but not said. Without explanation and/or a large lot of context, it's usually impossible to know what's actually meant by the word. "In person", "on paper", "using a device not connected to the internet", "similar to something else" - those are all meanings for which the word "analogue" is used today. Sometimes, the user of the word really doesn't know what they want to say, except that it's somehow related to not being online, not using modern communication services. I suppose then it can be the right word to convey "something with electronics and the internet". But in all cases where I read and head the word used, I wish the speaker or author would be more specific and let me know what they actually mean. "Digital communication" seems to include messages of any format that are sent over social network platforms, audio messages that are uploaded to a remote computer and downloaded from there by another computer, and text messages regardless of the medium that is used as long as it's electronic. The same audio message spoken through a phone (which first digitizes it and then sends it over the same wires using the same internet protocol and the same server infrastructure than the rest of the internet does) is not considered digital. A fax is digital, but excluded by the modern usage of digital. A digital message written on paper is also not considered digital.

Why change the meaning of the words? What's the advantage? Isn't this always confusing and obfuscating?

Real Life

Of all the things people do wrong in the usage of language, this is probably my pet peeve. Maybe because I believe that I can reasonably argue against it.

People use the term "real life" ("IRL" and, very similarly, "real world") as if it would mean the opposite of "online" or "over the internet" or "using some electronic medium". Hereafter I will call this the wrong usage of the term. It is done so often and regularly that it actually does mean one of these things. Before I describe what I think the problem with it is, let me try to explain what I'm talking about, exactly. Both of those words (real and life) have meanings on their own and using them together is absolutely in line with those individual meanings. I don't find it absurd to expect that the phrase means "the life that is actually true, as opposed to fictional". In fact, I consider it better to expect this meaning because not only did this meaning exist first, it also continues to be used. "The real world" is used meaning the opposite of a virtual world. I suppose the internet was considered to be a virtual world in the beginning and assume that that's where the wrong usage of "real world" stems from.

The main problem that I see is that when people regularly and naturally apply the wrong usage, the notion that the internet is not part of the real world, the real life, is reinforced, which I fear may influence the perception and the expectation that what happens on the internet does not have the same meaning or effects on life as things that happen without the internet playing a major role. In some ways they are (e.g. greater possible audience on social media than on a soapbox), but not in the way the use of "real world" as the opposite implies.

A conversation in a chat room can be much more real than a conversation offline. E-Mails, their meaning and effects on the world aren't less real than those of letter written or printed on paper. A confession over a video chat platform is not unreal compared to a confession over a telephone call, which is not unreal compared to a confession given in close physical proximity, just different. A threat posted in a Whatsapp group doesn't have less impact than a thread yelled at a schoolyard or under four eyes.

I imagine that the more this wrong usage is ignored the more its wrong implications get internalised by society and individuals. I wouldn't go so far to assume that there is a relavant relation between the wrong usage of "real life" and "real world" and the prevalence of "cyberbullying", online harassment and other extreme forms of modern trollship. But I also don't think the possibility that language influences the thinking and by that extension the actions of humans should be overlooked. I wouldn't be surprised if there was some connection to be found. But I don't know of any research on this nor would I expect to find any.