Practical verbs: 11/12

We know people speak a language as standard, but there’s many aspects in how they use it that relate to general things like context, in every day life and different settings: are you at work, talking to family, approaching a stranger on the street, talking to a neighbor, socializing at a party, catching up with your closest friends, starting a conversation online, presenting results and directions at a company meeting, speaking in public or asking a question with a big audience, maybe recording a video? Some stuff we say tends to be more informal, but people appreciate informality in a given situation while other people in a formal enviroment expect a level of preparedness, coherence and clearness, avoiding certain characteristics of unplanned speech to make it worth taking the time to listen. In today’s world, despite some unfortunate conversation starters and interactions, we want people to be clear, but also kind and respectful. What happens often is the conversation you hear on the street is closer to reality than the conversation you read on social media, so people change the way they talk because experiences in the real world tend to have an effect on how we talk, more or less formally, with more or less conviction; but that goes the other way around, and we’re still beginning to understand how that plays out. Here’s two examples:

“I respect your opinion”

Families have suffered with political disagreements, opinions about behavior and relationships, things that should be done, looked at, talked about in one way or another. But as language develops, some people may reject what came next and stick with what they know. That’s a question of identity, the same way a person will listen to one kind of music and not another, or several, but have a list of favorites — and music is a great example of how language can be playful, raw, intense or just clever in ways normal speech can’t translate or express. What people call slang or urban language might just be your preferred way of communicating, not because of personal taste, but because you think it’s more accurate. I can say something’s nuts or insane, some people might prefer to say distressing, problematic, and others will use a good wtf. Needless to say, the list goes on. But when it comes to picking the language we use for a greater audience, we should be careful and look back to see where we might be caught in contradictions of ideas or interrupted argumentation, along with a lack of consistency in vocabulary choices and empathy for the wording we elaborate. Of course, one of the main concerns today is how conversations start with people we haven’t met, and these have the benefit of being distant, at least at first, before we consider meeting someone who would say things we’re hearing for the first time. Optimism is great, so special cases aside, it’s great when you find someone who not only respects your way of expressing thoughts (doesn’t judge you for how you talk) but also welcomes a new way of thinking, and some of the discussions people have online tend to be more focused on trolling than the good let’s agree to disagree.

“You’re not following the rules”

If the school body decides they will have a cultural project, students are supposed to come up with a presentation of topics they’ll research by themselves. Including some information might be a debate among classmates (at least it used to be like that when I was in high school and also college), while some of it will be left out, if not revised. But some of the things we say can’t be reproduced in certain enviroments. You’re not going to write an academic essay saying the author is fucking brilliant or a complete wacko; you’re going to say while the contributions of said author have broadened the field of study, the aspects explored in this or that chapter are not sufficiently developed or rather they point toward a discussion that this or that author chose to focus on, but you won’t address it on the essay. Some talk is necessary, some is inconvenient. In practical life, you might wanna ask for a towel when you got into the bathroom and forgot about it, but of course you won’t walk out naked and maybe you don’t wanna scream, though you might be upset about having to ask for a favor. On social media, there are a set of rules. There’s many things happening every year at rapid pace, and we might see a future where certain kinds of content will start to be more heavily monitored and even taken down, but some will have their own place, with an understanding that they’re not harmful. Nobody said memes weren’t great, but some of them are offensive on purpose, not to mention that images can be copyrighted. As we all moved towards video, creators face the problem of not knowing their audience, how to respond and what to do when someone attacks them. That happens on television, so it isn’t new. What we need to understand is that rules can be broken, but consistent and massive deviations from decent and civilized exchange are going to be dealt with measures the platform itself has generated, as any other problem in society.

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Everyone thinks respect is key in any relationship we want to maintain. But it extends to society in general. A red light asks you to stop driving or walking. A block on social media asks you to stop seeking interaction. But drivers can get tickets and certain users can find better ways to solve disputes instead of the tool for blocking. Some people get banned, others get fined. But not everything works perfectly when it comes to identifying who’s doing right or wrong, and that’s a subject we need to keep debating not only in classrooms but in the media and society. When it comes to language, you want to feel represented, but not necessarily in opposition with a group you never interacted with — but that’s a choice you can make, considering that some of those may not be worthy of your time.

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