Tuesday, November 17, 2009

WRITE AND WRONG

My friend Rob and I ought to be ashamed of ourselves. If certain people knew what we sometimes do in our spare time, they'd probably never send us another email, text message or IM. Maybe they'd stop talking to us altogether.

What are we up to now? On slow days, we spend hours chatting on MSN, poking fun of the comedy of manners that is dating in Buenos Aires and cracking up over some of the messages sent to us by our Argentine suitors. I know it's not a very nice thing to do, but when someone sends me a message extolling the physical virtues of black men and their private parts, and offering a blow job in English and in Spanish, he deserves what he gets.

Not everything is so X-rated. Yesterday, I received a text message from a guy I met on Saturday morning in McDonald's, of all places. I had a hard time understanding what he was trying to say until I realized that throughout the message, he had used the letter "l" as a substitute for "i." l'm not sure what thls guy was thlnking! I used to do the same thing when I was in kindergarten because, to me, an "l" looked just like an "i," only taller and without a period on top, but there's really no excuse for a guy in his 20s. I thought that perhaps there was a problem with the keypad on his phone. Or was it even a mistake? Maybe lt was some lntentlonal deslgn thlng. Could he posslbly just thlnk lt looks klnd of cool? Whatever his reason for doing it, it was good for a chuckle. I hope he's as entertaining when we go out.

Then there are the ones who commit the cardinal elementary-school-English-class sin: the run-on sentence. I've received lengthy emails, text messages and IMs with not one punctuation mark in sight. No periods! No commas! Not even question marks! Just words delivered in a stream-of-consciousness style that, amazingly, my Spanish is good enough to figure out. Others use "B" when they really should use "V," or "LL" when a "Y" would do. I know that the letters in each pair are pronounced more or less identically in Spanish, but is spelling not a skill that's picked up in school? Rob was tempted to fire his maid the other day because she sent him a text message in which she spelled "hacer" A-S-E-R! Clueless or lazy? I'd say probably a mix.

The other night, a guy sent Rob an IM in which he capitalized "Trabajo" (work, in Spanish) throughout the entire run-on sentence. Rob, being far more bold and blunt when dealing with porteños than I am, asked him to reveal the method behind his semantic madness. Though the explanation only served to further confuse, I'm thinking of picking a random word or even a letter to start capitalizing in all forms of written communication. I kInd of lIke the way It looks. I've got to draw the lIne at run-on sentences though for me gettIng my poInt across clearly and eloquently wIthout causIng confusIon or comIng across lIke a grade-school dropout Is paramount.

But I am rethinking my placement of question marks. I was reading an en español email chain between my friend Cara and this guy on Facebook and noticed that when asking a question, he puts a space between the last letter of the sentence and the question mark. What do you think ? How cool does it look ? There were a couple of other punctuation quirks in what were otherwise flawlessly executed messages, but I was so focused on and fascinated by the space before the question marks that I didn't file away the other quirks. I can't even remember if he used accent marks.

Speaking of which, some guys are so anal with the accent marks that I become a little nervous when talking to them -- orally and online -- afraid that they will pick apart every error I make. I once had a friend in Los Angeles tell me that he was terrified to send me emails because he was sure I would rip them to shreds with my editor and writer colleagues. Actually, I never did anything like that until my recent rampage with Rob (and now only because since I am the non-native Spanish speaker, they really should know better), but that wouldn't have been such a bad way to perk up a slow afternoon at work.

And who knows? Maybe someone somewhere in Buenos Aires right now is reading one of my messages and having a hearty laugh at my expense.
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