Log in

No account? Create an account
13 November 2007 @ 12:28 pm
Politely deadly  
Movies have ruined polite conversation in this country. I don't mean that encroaching media has reduced public discourse to shouting and fandom. I mean to say that politeness is a frightening thing.

Sunday night, as I sat upon a couch with my lady love, enjoying something marginally less vapid than the majority of televised pablum, I received a text message on my iPhone. Seeing as it was about 9 PM, this was somewhat unusual, leading me to look at it just about as quickly as I would otherwise, which is to say I picked it up and looked.

It was a number I did not recognize. This happens, though it is rare. The message was somewhat more surprising, though, and I recreate it verbatim:
"Bitch wat r u doing?"

Now, I can accept the term "bitch" in common use, though I am neither a female dog nor a self-assertive female human being. I have in point of fact accepted "Bitch" as a pet name, when spoken by the right people. Used by someone whose number is not already stored in my iPhone, however, I would tend to think two things: either this is an idiot with a wrong number, or someone is playing a joke on me.

It is possible I do not recognize the number because I don't normally recognize people as strings of numbers. Phone numbers are not identifiers I easily recall. So, just in case, I respond thusly:
"As I do not recognize your number and thus don't know who you are, perhaps you should either tell me how I know you or check again just whom you've texted."

It took a few minutes to get a response, finally revealing that the other end of the chain was looking for someone named "Amanda." Again, I don't remember this being one of my monikers, so I replied that whomever I was speaking with had the wrong number, and that it had not changed in years. I advised this person to check the number again, and figured that would be the end of it.

However, there were two more responses coming, including:
"I'm sorry i hope u can take my apology i will not text this number again sorry!"
and when I said that was fine and to have a good evening, I received:
"You too! God bless you!"

Now, perhaps I am misreading the tone of the text. Perhaps being met with courtesy brought it out in my correspondent. I tend to read the responses with more of a subtext of, "Oh, hell, who've I pissed off here, Hannibal Lecter?" It would seem odd to go from referring to someone as "Bitch" and then straight into befuddled confusion. Perhaps I merely enjoy the ego flattery of thinking that polite erudition and proper speech are now considered signs of a potential serial killer or gentlemanly sociopath who doesn't care if you're screaming in agony so long as you say, "Please and thank you," when he allows you to pass out from the pain.

Still and all, I'm hard-pressed to think of kindly characters in media in the last decade or two who haven't turned out to be terrifying spectres of death in the final act. If that's the case, so be it. Courtesy was originally a form of daily diplomacy, anyway, engineered by society to try to prevent rampant violence in everyday life based on perceived slights to honor or station. If the masses want to let the pendulum swing this way again, it simply means that I might receive a simple "Thank you," when I hold a door for someone in passing. I won't plant a knife in the back of someone who fails in this common courtesy, but they don't need to know that, do they?

Have a lovely day.
Current Mood: ever so pleasant
Current Music: Led Zepplin - Black Country Woman
Kitsunekitsunegeek on November 13th, 2007 07:41 pm (UTC)
You know, I was raised in a large Southern family. We were taught good manners, polite forms of address, how to write invitations, RSVP's, thank you notes, etc... In English class (and from my mother, who was far more exacting) we learned language, writing, grammar, and vocabulary. I have always appreciated these early lessons, considering them essential to a refined and civilized society; therefor I have held onto what I learned and worked to increase these skills.

However, as you also note; most of society around us seems quite content to slide into grunts, hoots, and incomprehensible text-isms as a "new slang". Some even try to claim that this is an evolution of language, most don't actually remember how to use a big word like "evolution". Indeed it is often the "scary" characters that are depicted as educated, refined, well-spoken... I wonder what the intention there is? Of course, I wonder how far off they are? The people that I know that actually still value refined manners, polite society, and obvious intellect are not by any means dangerous sociopaths; but they aren't Joe Average either. Most of them are in the leather community, in fact; where a small society based on manners, protocols and formality thrives and is respected. I may be drawing an imaginary conclusion, but it was the first thing that came to my mind.
Traveler Farlandertwfarlan on November 13th, 2007 08:24 pm (UTC)
Well, watch the fictions of the era to see what is considered "fearful" to society at that time. Look at the 20s; gangsters were what people were afraid of, based on the problems of the time. In the 30s going into the 40s, it was fifth columnists and socialists, so your villains were patterned on that, leading to guys like the Red Skull. In the 50s on through the late 70s, maybe into the mid 80s even, scientists were all madmen trying to bring on the nuclear apocalypse. Doctor Doom, Lex Luthor, Doc Octopus, why, even some of the heroes of the day were results of science gone wrong, as in the case of the Hulk and the Fantastic Four. From the mid 80s, you see a shift in the heights of villainy from mad science to heartless capitalism. Lex Luthor is recast as an untouchable businessman, for example, as was Victor von Doom in recent Marvel rewrites of their various characters. Since the mid-90s or so? Mental patients, sociopaths, psychopaths, these have made up the bulk of your major villains, up to the day when terrorists became the national nightmare.

One thing to remember, though, is that many of these horrible people have one thing in common, no matter what their method of evil might be: they are intelligent. Nothing so scary as someone who can outsmart you, I suppose, or who thinks in ways you cannot follow.

As for the lifestyle communities you mention, think how careful people have to be as things are now to avoid acrimony and drama. Without codes of courtesy, can you imagine there being such communities at all? Or would they all collapse under the emotional stresses and sub-cultural pressures at work?
craigers01 on November 13th, 2007 08:02 pm (UTC)
Bitch, anserz mi txt!!
Traveler Farlandertwfarlan on November 13th, 2007 08:25 pm (UTC)
"Miscreant female, I demand you respond with your current location."

Translated into txtspk: "Bitch were u at?!"
craigers01 on November 13th, 2007 09:13 pm (UTC)
Ace Lightning: lightning faeacelightning on November 14th, 2007 12:08 am (UTC)
having just finished a lengthy conversation via text messages with Alex, i do have to point out that abbreviations and slang that seem illiterate and rude in ordinary language have a purpose in texting. there's a limit on how many characters a message can contain; furthermore, typing everything in correct English is time-consuming and tedious on a phone keypad.

(and, apparently, among today's youth, "bitch" has lost almost all pejorative force, and simply means "woman" or "girl".)

Traveler Farlandertwfarlan on November 14th, 2007 12:32 am (UTC)
I have been text messaging for several years. I know the argument about how it takes longer and so forth. Hells, they used to charge by the character, rather than just instituting a per-message character limit. Tough shit. Use shorter words or take the time to do it right. I'm not flexible on that point with phones, not even when I'm the one using it.
Ace Lightning: cell phoneacelightning on November 14th, 2007 09:08 am (UTC)
it's the damn punctuation that pisses me off - navigating through five screens just to find a parenthesis or an apostrophe. when it's time to get a new phone, i may choose one with a QWERTY keyboard if I can afford it.

Ace Lightning: lightning faeacelightning on November 14th, 2007 12:33 am (UTC)
Heinlein put it thusly:
"Moving parts in rubbing contact require lubrication to avoid excessive wear. Honorifics and formal politeness provide lubrication where people rub together. Often the very young, the untravelled, the naïve, the unsophisticated deplore these formalities as empty, meaningless, or dishonest, and scorn to use them. No matter how pure their motives, they thereby throw sand into the machinery that does not work too well at best."

i think the reason the media now portray politeness and courtesy as frightening is related to the concept that courteous behavior is hypocritical and false; therefore, anyone who practices it is trying to trick you for some sinister purpose. now, it's true that plain, forthright, possibly even rude, behavior usually does indicate honesty - but that doesn't mean that the opposite of that behavior indicates the opposite of honesty. (there's a name for that logical fallacy, but i can't find it.)

Edited at 2007-11-14 09:08 am (UTC)