Connotation Connection


“Did she really mean to say that?”

We communicate by using words.  More and more these days, we do so by writing them instead of speaking them.  I’m one of those who doesn’t mind this.  I’m not much for the phone.  I’m a talker, so when I do get on the phone, mountains of work time get sucked down the drain.  And yeah, it’s my own damned fault.

This doesn’t make me a bad person, btw, just one with many, many good friends and a huge family with sisters…<g>

Plus, there are times when it’s easier to keep your bad/sad feeling to yourself through writing rather than speaking.

But communicating through writing and reading can be tricky.  I’m sure you’ve noticed, I use lots of smiles and grins.  No, I don’t sit at my computer grinning like an idiot– and yes, I use “heh heh” instead of he he, because I read in serious literal fashion and the first one sounds more like a chuckle to me.  The second a giggle.  I’m not much of a giggler either.

But there is a real reason why I use so many grins, smiles and chuckles.  Seems when I don’t use them, the meaning behind the words I use can be misunderstood.  I’ll leave a comment that was supposed to be a joke and wasn’t taken that way.  Then I end up feeling bad and over-explaining myself. 

In email, sometimes, we can sound cruel or sarcastic and not mean to at all. 

If you think about it, it really breaks down to the mood of the reader.  Without hearing voice or seeing expression, we have no way of knowing how that person is feeling when he/she opens that email.

If they’re feeling a little victimized that day, maybe they’ll see your words as an accusation.  If they feel depressed, they could take them in too many negative ways for me to go into here. You all know how freaking wordy I can be. 

Maybe someone just kicked their cat and they’re a little pissed about it.  Someone kicked mine recently and I got angry about it off and on for days.  I might have opened an email and taken it wrong because I was already feeling like smacking someone around.

Plus, there’s always that fun translation mis-connection through connotation.  (Doesn’t this make you want to hum that old cartoon song from the seventies–uh, if you’re old like me– Conjuction Junction…) 

Here’s an Internet definition of connotation:

the associated or secondary meaning of a word or expression in addition to its explicit or primary meaning

So, so many words out there that mean more than one thing and without those facial expressions or voice inflections, well… basically, we’re all kind of guessing.  It’s easier when you know the person and can picture their face as you read, but how many of us have made connections on the Net with people we never see? 

It’s a great-big-old strange, technological world we’ve made for ourselves, isn’t it?

Any funny misreads to share? 


About Rinda Elliott

Writer.I love unusual stories and credit growing up in a family of curious life-lovers who moved all over the country. Books and movies full of fantasy, science fiction and romance kept us amused, especially in some of the stranger places. For years, I tried to separate my darker side with my humorous and romantic one. I published short fiction, but things really started happening when I gave in and mixed it up. When not lost in fiction, I love making wine, collecting music, gaming and spending time with my husband and two children. I’m represented by Miriam Kriss of the Irene Goodman Agency.
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8 Responses to Connotation Connection

  1. carol says:

    My daughter will misunderstand my sarcasm and think I’m mad at her or think its meant as criticism, so I have to be really clear. My friends don’t seems to have that issue.

  2. Hey Rinda — decided to avoid my writing a little longer and pop on over…

    You know, most of the people I’ve had really awful arguments with online, I am convinced that most of them would never have happened in real life. Then again, maybe we would have taken chairs and broken them over each other’s heads in real life, so the internet could have been a good thing. 😉

    Then again, on the flip side, I met my husband online in an environment known as a MOO (LambdaMOO, actually, if anyone knows it), and it was almost weird how you could tell the creeps from the “normal” people just based on a few words of conversation — there really is a tone to online interactions that is different than what’s out in the world, I think.

    I love being online, and sometimes you just have to be careful first and then hope for the best, since you can’t control everything, least of all other people’s responses.


  3. I find males online are real quick to get their silly hackles up and go through all sorts of posturing and threats from the safety of their office.

    Women online are much more apt to be kind and maternal when you mention you have an “issue”…

  4. relliott4 says:

    Sam, oh yes, it is sometimes very easy to pick out the people you really don’t want to know better online. I’ve even been in conversations with people where I’ve treaded carefully just because I thought they might be a little scary. Mostly, I avoid conversations off blogs. I don’t do chat rooms, etc. I can’t imagine having the time.

    But, I have made some wonderful, wonderful friends online that I might not have known so well had we met first in person. I’m much better at writing than I am at speaking sometimes.

    Oh Scott, I could so ruin that nice image of women just by sending you to a couple of blogs that are full of hackles right this minute. I wasted a bit of time trying to figure out why so many got so upset today.

  5. Sharon says:

    Rinda, I think you think too much.

  6. relliott4 says:

    Is this Sharon my relative?

    BTW, this post came from four very separate and very recent incidents that did inspire a little extra thinking and required a little extra explaining on my part.

    I also find this whole world of online communication interesting. I should have been an anthropologist. I do tend to spend a lot of time thinking about people, their actions, their lives. But it’s certainly not “too much.”

    If I weren’t interested, I wouldn’t feel the need to write about people, to create stories. I’m not sure I believe it’s possible to think to much. Obsess too much, yes. Worry too much, yes. Think too much… nah.

  7. Julia says:

    You are right in that so many of us by the words we speak are misinterpreted. It does depend on our mood and the person’s mood that is reading our words. Your blog is fun and brings up many questions we all wish we had the guts to ask. Keep it up

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