|http://www.sina.com.cn 2004/04/08 10:45 北京青年报|
One of my Chinese friends asked me why I don't use a capital letter at the beginning of the sentences in my emails to her. It's a long story.
The instant messaging craze began in America about five or six years ago. I was in my freshman year of college, and one day my best friend called me on the phone and told me to download "AOL instant messenger". At the time, I had no idea what she was talking about, but I soon found out, and it didn't take long before I was hooked on instant messaging. I began talking on line whenever I could. I discovered that several of my friends already had the same program. As I added more and more people to my "buddy list", others were doing the same. Instant messaging really picked up, and soon "everyone was doing it."
I credit my typing skills to many many hours of talking on line. Unfortunately, as my typing speed increased, everything else went out the window. You see, instant messengers have their own shorthand language. Grammar isn't important. In English, instant messengers can leave out articles, subjects, pronouns, etc. They can misspell or "re-spell" almost any word. "Good", for example, becomes "gud". Abbreviations are particularly important: "[I'll] be right back" becomes "brb." "No problem," "np." English-speaking instant messengers also refuse to burden themselves with punctuation and capitalization. Periods and apostrophes? Unnecessary. Capitalization? Useless. My experience with instant messaging was so addictive that to this day I tend to forego the use of capital letters whenever I write -- on the computer or off.
Gradually the instant messaging craze in America died down a bit, and so did my own enthusiasm for it. Although I still used the program, it was mainly for the convenience of keeping in contact with distant family and friends.
Then I came to China.
Here I discovered not one but two instant messaging crazes. The first, which brought back memories of my previous addiction to the computer, was QQ.
So now the cycle has started again. I use QQ. I can't speak much Chinese but I can still see evidence that the Chinese have the same kind of separate instant-messaging language, even when they chat in English. My first word in this language, for example, was "ft". This abbreviation for "faint"[as in "I could have fainted" from shock] is used whenever there is a need to express surprise. I also discovered that the Chinese use the same kind of abbreviation for a laugh. Hehe, haha, and heehee in America become呵呵,哈哈and嘿嘿in China. And there is an extraordinary number of smiley faces and icons available to express every emotion and reaction, from the traditional "sleepy" and "doubtful" smileys to the "vomit" and "army soldier" smileys. There's even a SARS smiley -- I still haven't quite figured that one out...
After QQ, there is another, perhaps more widespread, messaging trend. You guessed it: cellphone text messaging.
At first I didn't understand it. See, in America cellphones work a little differently. There are very few "pay-as-you-go" plans, so most people sign a contract for a six-month or one-year plan. Many cellphone plans don't include free text messaging, and since you pay a monthly fee no matter how few calls you make, it's easier just to make the phone call. I experimented with text messaging once and found out (when my bill arrived) that not only did it cost a ridiculous amount of money to send a message, but it cost money to receive one as well!
For the first few months of my stay in China, I didn't have a cellphone, so I wasn't affected. I recently bought a cellphone, however, and now understand how useful text messaging is and why it is so common. I admit that I have been guilty of sending text messages while walking outside or sitting on the subway. Who hasn't? No matter where I go, I see people on their cellphones, messaging. In fact, it's rare to see someone actually talking on their phone!
So it looks as if there's no escaping the instant-messaging craze, no matter where in the world I go. And that's plainly not going to change. In the end, though, I can't complain: instant messaging is quick, it's cheap, it's easy and it's pretty darn fun too.
And after all, everybody's doing it.
我的打字技能应归功于很多很多小时的网上聊天。然而令人遗憾的是，当我的打字速度提高后，一切语法规则也都跑掉了。要知道，网上聊天的人有他们自己的速记语言，语法并不重要，网上英语聊天者可以省略冠词、主语、代词等等，聊天者几乎可以错拼或“重拼”任何单词，比如“Good”可以写成gud；略写特别重要，“[I'll]be right back(我很快就回来)”可以写成“brb”，“No problem(没问题)”可以写成“np”，说英语的网上聊天者为了省事还拒绝使用标点符号和大写字母。句号和缩写符？不必要。大写字母？没用。当年我对网上聊天曾是那么的上瘾，以至于今天我在写东西时往往还是不用大写字母———不论在计算机上写还是手写。
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