Since I am a Baby Boomer, and my youngest son is almost 14, I have a lot to learn from him.
For instance, he recently informed his mother (my wife of 31 years) and me that both “CD” and “DVD” are to be pronounced as a single word. He said that persons of my generation pronounce them as if periods still separate the initials, such as C.D. and D.V.D. What’s even worse, we still occasionally mention V.H.S.
So in a loving gesture to help us fit in the modern era, our son informed us that “CD” should be pronounced as a single, two-syllable word; and likewise, “DVD” should be pronounced as a single, three-syllable word.
Now, my wife is a well-compensated server in a well-known restaurant. A while ago, she placed some of her requests regarding her availability in an e-mail to her manager. Sometime later, her manager told her that those requests had come across as “demanding.” The solution, according to our 14-year-old son, was to include some emoticons. You know, some smiley faces. “That’s why they were invented,” he said.
Actually, emoticons – which is a contraction of the words “emotion” and “icon” – were not invented recently; i.e., with the advent of e-mail. They have been around since the 1800’s. Wikipedia documents that “Typographical emoticons were published in 1881 by the U.S. satirical magazine Puck. … An emoticon,” says Wikipedia, “is a facial expression pictorially represented by punctuation and letters, usually to express a writer’s mood.”
But they have found a massive, cultural resurgence due to texting, e-mail, and chatting. In fact, a couple weeks ago, I was chatting via G-mail with my previously youngest son, who is now 24. At the beginning of our chat, we had a short, lighthearted interchange about emoticons. And we discovered that at the bottom of the chat-box, there is another box where you can click to select the type and style of emoticon you want in your message at that moment.
However, later in our chat, we got into a deeper, heavier interchange about spiritual issues, and how my own spiritual condition has changed as I’ve gotten older. Because of another commitment, our chat came to an abrupt end during this interchange. And we both felt bad because the conversation was unresolved, and neither of us knew how the other felt about it. Emoticons cannot replace true emotion, inflection and intention.
So not long after that, my son and his wife drove down to visit us (they live several hours away), and my son and I went to Starbucks together in order to bring closure to our chat. And we were successful. We just needed some actual “face-time,” not smiley-face time.
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