Tuesday, April 13, 2004

The joy of text

Well, hasn't the story of Goldenballs' text messaging been interesting this week? Not for what most of the media coverage has focused on - celebrity tittle-tattle, unrepentantly envious 'oh how the mighty fall' stories, and more sex than you could shake a stick at - but for a nice set of data showing some interesting things about language and technology. Mr Beckham, why thank you, sir!

First up, is the whole business of the way in which technology mediated communication is so vulnerable to interception. Yes, you can leave love letters lying around for someone to pick up and read, and your mum might take to steaming them open with a hot iron and a damp hanky, but that's all very deliberately intrusive. It's hard to see Posh picking up Becks' phone in quite the same way, and if I were an international paparazzi target, I might think just once or twice about the fact that mobile phone companies keep records of your calls for 21 days. I mean, don't these people watch Footballers' Wives ?!

The second interesting thing is that Becks appears to make almost no use at all of some of the emerging orthographic conventions of text messaging. No smilies, very few abbreviations, just a rather curious use of asterisks to mask his use of (presumably) taboo language. Considering his claim to be texting while driving a Ferrari, you'd think a few abbreviations might help! And without them, he seems strangely outmoded, like someone new to text messaging, or your granny...

And those asterisks? He's hardly seeking to protect his reader's moral sensibility now is he? Did he think he wouldn't get caught if he didn't actually text the whole word? Pragmatically, they could be suggestive of a playful teasing kind of coyness, especially evident if you try, as several witty journalists already have, to work out which words should go in the gaps! The four-asterisk words are generally very easy to deduce, but you try working out the seven-asterisk ones! Is he just asterisking wildly and inaccurately, knowing that his reader will know what he means regardless, or is this a cryptic crossword she must solve in order to win the prize dictionary?...

Check out the link. What do you think of his text technique?

"Beck's txt fuelled lust"


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