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July 7, 2006

Physical English

There's a person who posts on a message board that I attend; he posts infrequently, but when he does, invariably comes out of the woodwork with an argumentative, almost-juvenile post that belittles another poster's point of view. Despite all of that he uses a technique to express his displeasure with the other person's opinion that I've never seen used before -- he puts the words "rolls his eyes" into his response, in parenthesis, providing the reader with a visual of his physical response. I think this is just absolutely brilliant. If evolved, it could be the next big thing.

Perspective

The English language has been around a long time and there are grammarians who would like to hold it to a rigorous standard while counter-grammarians will tell you that the language is constantly evolving; changing right in front of us. Black English, for example, has been a topic of debate for a couple of decades now; it boils down to replacing the pronoun "the" with the street-jangle "da", and adding a 'z' to plural nouns, so that for example "The boys are in the house" becomes "Da boyz are in da house". I gotta say, I was replacing "the" with "da" back in the late seventies as a white, suburban high school kid trying to act "cool" (a word that derives from Beatnik lingo and rose to prominence during the hippie era of the late sixties).

And then there's Body English; what Carlton Fisk used to will his homer fair in the 1976 World Series. Body English gets written up in local newspapers all the time -- how to tell if the girl at the other end of the train platform finds you attractive (open stance facing towards you) or not (turned away). Most interesting case of body English I ever encountered was at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, waiting for a small propeller plane flight to Bloomington, Illinois several years ago. I was early for the flight, and sat down at the gate -- an area that had about 100 empty seats in multiple rows with a few other people scattered about. I leaned forward in my thinker's stance, elbows resting on my knees, hands under my chin. A very attractive young woman in a business suit walked up to the gate, got her ticket, and then proceeded to the seat directly across from mine, of the hundreds of empty seats she could have chosen. She then put her travel bag down on the floor, turned around, and bent over to look into her bag, her butt literally a foot away from my face. I felt the rest of the people in the room focus in our direction to see what would happen next. I'm pretty sure she was saying something and using her best Body English to do so.

Physical English

Anyway, I believe the mad message boarder has stumbled on the next great wave of change to the English language. Herewith called "Physical English"; the only thing I'm confused about is why it hasn't already been invented in the hundreds of years that the English language has been around.

Take Two

For example, the paragraph above, if written in Physical English, would go something like this:

And then there's Body English; what Carlton Fisk ("Lou sticks his middle finger up at the computer screen") used to will his homer fair in the 1976 World Series ("picks his nose and flicks it into the air"). Body English gets written up in local newspapers ("rolls his eyes") all the time -- how to tell if the girl at the other end of the platform finds you attractive (open stance facing towards you) or not (turned away) ("Lou changes channels on the TV using the remote control"). Most interesting case of body English I ever encountered ("Lou scratches his ass") was at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, waiting for a small propeller plane flight to Bloomington, Illinois several years ago. I was early for the flight ("Lou looks out the window, contemplatively"), and sat down at the gate -- an area that had about 100 empty seats in multiple rows with a few other people scattered about. I leaned forward in my thinker's stance, elbows resting on my knees, hands under my chin ("blows his nose"). A very attractive young woman in a business suit walked up to the gate, got her ticket, and then proceeded to the seat directly across from mine, of the hundreds of empty seats she could have chosen ("Lou smiles a dumb smile"). She then put her travel bag down on the floor, turned around, and bent over to look into her bag, her butt literally a foot away from my face. ("still smiling"). I felt the rest of the people in the room focus in our direction to see what would happen next. I'm pretty sure she was saying something and using her best Body English to do so. ("still smiling").

Take Three

Change the physical descriptions, and you've got a whole new story:

And then there's Body English; what Carlton Fisk ("a tear comes to Lou's eye") used to will his homer fair in the 1976 World Series ("Lou gets up and leaves room to make a pot of coffee"). Body English gets written up in local newspapers ("Lou checks last night's Yankee score on ESPN") all the time -- how to tell if the girl at the other end of the platform finds you attractive (open stance facing towards you) or not (turned away) ("Lou gets up to see if coffee is ready"). Most interesting case of body English I ever encountered ("sips coffee") was at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, waiting for a small propeller plane flight to Bloomington, Illinois several years ago. I was early for the flight ("puts down coffee and misses table; coffee spills all over fucking floor"), and sat down at the gate -- an area that had about 100 empty seats in multiple rows with a few other people scattered about. I leaned forward in my thinker's stance, elbows resting on my knees, hands under my chin ("Lou returns from kitchen with paper towels"). A very attractive young woman in a business suit walked up to the gate, got her ticket, and then proceeded to the seat directly across from mine, of the hundreds of empty seats she could have chosen ("cleans up coffee and throws drenched paper towels in trash"). She then put her travel bag down on the floor, turned around, and bent over to look into her bag, her butt literally a foot away from my face. ("rolls eyes"). I felt the rest of the people in the room focus in our direction to see what would happen next. I'm pretty sure she was saying something and using her best Body English to do so. ("Returns to kitchen to get another cup of coffee").

I could go on and on. You get the picture. You can even do it to other people's writing, if you can get a hold of it. 

A Road Less Traveled, by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood

And sorry I could not travel both ("rolls his eyes")

And be one traveler, long I stood ("scratches head")

And looked down one as far as I could ("squints")

To where it bent in the undergrowth ("scratches ass and walks away from computer") 

 

-- Lou V