Friday, January 27, 2006

Mijn Emoties Moeten Tegenwoordig Illustraties Hebben

Supposedly every language is best at communicating some emotion. French is supposed to be for love, and Spanish for passion, German for description, or whatever. Dutch, in this pantheon, is best for sarcasm and cynicism. Really. If I am supposed to be this master of dry verbal humor in English, it is because I had a lifetime of practice in the language of a culture so ready to bite that saying "Thank you" in a perfectly neutral tone is dangerously close in normal conversation to come across as a veiled "Yeah whatever." I am utterly serious here. Smile when you say "Bedankt." Nod. Give an up-lilt. Something.

The whole language is emotionally rooted in this irony, and I deeply love it for its amazing possibilities in that area. But I just noticed it has had one repercussion on my expressions, now that I have returned. I have been communicating in writing over the Internet since 1988, but most of it has been English, and consequently my intuition of how words are received were shaped in that language. I have certain expectations of how words and phrases will land. One of my checks before sending is reading what I wrote mechanically, absolutely flat, to get a sense of what could be projected into the words and what seems to be there intrinsically. Well, check that first paragraph: every time I do that I feel I sound like an ironic cynical bastard, and I know of only one way to correct that: after years of seeing them as the easy way out, I am practically ending every sentence on messaging systems with a smiley. Especially when saying no, thank you.

I really need to read more how people write online in this language.