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No. 214 March 2022



No 214

March 1, 2022

Or my five cents about inflation of emotions

INFLATION «a progressive decline in the purchasing power of money and the related increase in prices» (; accessed: 27.01.2022). «Phenomenon of a sharp increase in something that occurs in large numbers, causing it to lose its value» (; accessed: 27.01.2022) ׀ łac. inflatio = puffiness.

HAVE WANTED TO WRITE THIS SHORT TEXT for a long time. However, there was always something in a way, usually other, more "catchy" topics. However, this topic pushed my buttons so much that it reminded me of itself every time I handed over another issue of HIGH FIDELITY to a graphic designer for publication. It is about inflating the meaning of words and signs that describe emotions, as well as evaluative phrases.

The issue might seem insignificant, yet it has its consequences in real life. Let me explain. For a long time, in written texts, an "emphasizing" of meaning has been noticeable. It is not enough to say 'good', it has to be 'very good', and even better 'great' or 'awesome'. It makes no sense to say that something is 'strong' or - more often - 'weak', because the recipient of such a message will not understand what we mean and will suspect that we do not really care about it and we talk about it disrespectfully. But the 'outstanding' or - appropriately - 'shitty' will carry the appropriate, and what is more the expected by the interlocutor, emotional charge.

The easiest way to track the process is by searching chats on your messengers and posts in your social media. They are part of the Internet universe in which emotions must be expressed in a short text in the fastest and easiest way possible for our fingers, otherwise in continuous texts they should be absolutely unambiguous, and their role is played by emoticons. emoji.

As KEITH HOUSTON, author of the book Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and Other Typographical Marks says, it is difficult to pinpoint the first moment when they appeared in print. However, citing several more or less formalized appearances of the emoticon he tacitly assumes that its birth took place around 1880. They had shapes achieved with the help of existing printing marks: dots, colons, dashes, pauses, and parentheses. To this day, we still build them in this way, using the computer keyboard.

Exactly - a computer. Although known for one hundred and forty years, it is common knowledge that the emoticons have a form given to them by an academic teacher, SCOTT E. FAHLMAN. It just so happens that we know the exact date of their appearance - it was September 19, 1982. Fahlman then joined the discussion related to the mercury spill joke published in his Alma mater, which was mistakenly treated as a real event. At that time, he called for the inclusion of special elements in the information that could reflect the author's intentions - in this case, humor. The rest is history ...

For many years, the presence of a smiling or sad face carried a huge load of emotions. With time one smiley face was not enough for us and two or even three of the same appeared next to each other. They were supposed to mean basically the same, but with a higher intensity. Today, it is no longer surprising to see six or more signs informing about the author's emotional state.

The situation is very similar with the already mentioned exaggeration in written texts. Hyperbolization, that is, exaggerating or diminishing certain features, is one of the basic rhetorical traces in the literature. Nowadays, however, it has lost its substantive dimension, it is no longer a way of exchanging thoughts, but only its persuasive side remains, i.e. the need to present a given thing in such a way that it stumps the opponent into the ground and sweeps him away (that’s me using a hyperbole).

The best use of this clue, and today just lies, can be seen in politics. Populists love to describe the world in an unambiguous, black and white way, where 'black' is 'black as night' and white is 'whiter than snow'. In this way they obtain a cumulative effect, because while it is still possible to argue with the 'black', it is impossible to argue with the 'black hole' ...

The inaugural speech of the President of the United States, Donald Trump, in which he said that America has fallen into ruins and he will rebuild it, has gone into the classics of speeches. As in an interview for Polityka, the author of the book Ostatni ludzie. Wymyślanie końca świata, MACIEJ JAKUBOWIAK said, the point is to draw an apocalyptic scenario, which means that the existing rules cease to apply and you do not have to pay attention to democracy anymore. This is an extreme example, but with thousands of other smaller ones happening around us every now and then.

I do not know to what extent these two things connect, but - to common sense - their coexistence seems at least suspicious: it is about politics on the one hand, and the desire of web content creators to get as many clicks as possible, on the other. The thing is that web browsers are governed by algorithms set by IT specialists in their searches, and people responsible for the distribution of digital content try to "tame" these algorithms.

To do this, you need to prepare a text, and above all its title, in such a way that it contains key words, and in the right order. I am talking about SEO:

You started your own business, you have a website ... and suddenly everyone starts to tell you - you need to invest in SEO! There is only one problem ... you have no idea what seo is, right?
Let us help - SEO is nothing more than Search Engine Optimization, i.e. optimization for search engines. The development of this abbreviation, however, does not reflect the entire essence of website positioning, which is a long-term process that requires patience and in-depth analysis of the website code and the search engine algorithm.; accessed: 27.01.2022.

An absolutely rational assumption in itself has led to the degradation of the language over time. Instead of saying: “Yesterday evening, around 9:32 pm, there was a gas leak in Warsaw. Fortunately, there are no casualties among people, although material losses will exceed one million zlotys", we read something like: "One million zlotys in losses !!! The disaster took place in Warsaw due to a gas leak!”. Do you see this manipulation?

Exaggerating is in our blood - sorry for the "we", but I am also talking about myself. When writing the test, I have a choice whether to plot the assessment in a subtle and balanced way or to subject it to a facelift. Lifting is to remain the truth, but a "more" truth, an emphatic truth. I find myself doing the latter more and more, usually unconsciously. As if I was following what I hear and read, recognizing the need of these times. Example: when I write about 'good sound' I often use the word 'excellent'. The text is therefore not less accurate, but it is exaggerated. Or not, I don't know anymore ... - It would be an exaggeration ten or fifteen years ago, today it is probably accepted as "normal".

In order to be heard and understood, one has to be "more" in every respect. And yet the exclamation mark for many years could not get through to typewriter keyboards. It wasn't even on the 1878 enhanced QWERTY keyboard and, as Keith Houston writes, to get it, you had to hit the dot, go back and hit the apostrophe. And further: "Separate exclamation mark keys were so rare that back in 1973, a guide for secretaries described the above method of obtaining this mark."

Over time, emotions grew as well as the ways of expressing them, also in writing. One exclamation point, one emoticon, an emotionally balanced expression is not enough anymore. These changes are insanely (you see the irony?) destructive because they wash language out of the content. You can just ignore it, but it won’t do you any good. We think using language and language defines us. Even if we don't know it. That is why this new language is changing and radicalizing us.

I don't want to tilt at windmills here, that's not what I mean - as the classic says: "It is as it is". I give myself up to it. However, it is worth remembering that we used to only need one exclamation point and one emoticon. Maybe the world was no better for it, but it was definitely calmer.

Chief editor

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