henry rollins

Kel, Adam and I saw Henry Rollins‘ spoken word tour last night. As usual, it was funny, full of anger about things, and full of insight into the human nature. When I see Henry (this was the third tour I’ve seen live), there’s usually some insight to take away from it; this was no exception.

Henry attacked the concept of mobile phone conversations that are just to fill in time:

“Hey, it’s me. What are you doing?”

“Nothing. What are you doing?”

“Nothing. Hey… I’ve got another call coming in. Emoticon.”

Never mind the “hey it’s me” – I think it’s reasonable that in some relationships, you’ll recognise the voice; the idea of ’emoticon’ as a greeting, or a farewell, and the loss of ability to express yourself in English is what I’ll take away from last night’s concert.

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  1. I’m jealous! I have had a burning desire to see Rollins for years! Ha! yet another thing people don’t know about me 🙂

  2. Whose English? And what sort of English? DO you mean colloquial English or “standard English”? And whose standard anyway? Perhaps there is a newly emerging variety of “mobile phone english”?

  3. I think Henry was talking about people using emoticons and poor spelling to replace self-expression in prose. For me, it’s also the need to be constantly busy with shallow pursuits, the tendency to consider a concept that can’t be captured in 160 characters to be one that isn’t worth passing on to someone else, and the immediacy of the medium reducing access to, and desire for thought-out discourse.

    I don’t think that mobile phone english is emerging: that would suggest that it’s bigger than the language it replaces: it’s a functional dialect, but is surely a little too similar to Newspeak than anyone should be comfortable with?

    I wouldn’t think that someone who had mastered the ability to send text messages in English would necessarily have anything better than, say, an eight year old reading level, would they?


  4. there have been many papers written on this topic in my field, especially concerned with notions of critical literacy, power, identity etc and looking at both mobile phone and chat room/email conventions of using language. Ultimately, langauge adapts itself to suit the function to which it is being used, and abbreviating to LOL or BTW or whatever can be extremely functional indeed if one has a limited character length. zit is really all about using language in the correct way to suit the social purpose for which it is being used. I agree with you that perhaps much sms communication may be shallow, but lets not throw the baby out with the bathwater (or become reactionary in our “protection” of the English langague) just yet. By ’emerging’ I don’t necessarily think it is ‘replacing’, but I do think it is a new variant of english used among a particular ‘social set’ or ‘community of users’and suits their purposes very well – as long as they don’t use it in their English essays. Sorry about the diatribe, but I coulnd’t really help it. I guess you can call me an intellectual wanker now.

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