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December 7, 2013

A Word of Advice: Digital speak doesn't translate

The Daily Star

---- — In an earlier article, I wrote about the importance of conversation as a lost art, however, after holding a few conversations with some fellow youths, I felt older than I should have. 

Each generation has its own little phrases and sayings that the older ones scoff at, from gnarly to groovy, and tubular to radical, people have shaken their canes at youngsters inserting these words into their daily speech cyclically throughout the ages. 

However, sometimes a line must be drawn between the evolution of a language and the absolute devastation of it, and where does this line begin you ask? When digital text travels from type to tongue in the wrong situations. 

The most painful example of this phenomenon is the translation of not a word, but a symbol, from the land of text lingo to the sphere of spoken word.  “#,” or, hashtag, is a symbol, term type thing that came from social network Twitter and eventually spread to other networks such as Facebook and Instagram.

In the correct, online context for use the symbol is used to categorize posts/tweets by certain words or phrases, for example, a post talking about basketball may use #bulls or something of that nature to group the post with that of other fans. However, when used in speech, it’s typically just said in front of catchphrases as if verbally saying “hashtag” is supposed to signify whatever is said after it as some sort of funny catchphrase. 

For example, when somebody says “Get it son, winner winner chicken dinner!” it sounds completely normal and conveys the point of what the person is trying to say, however “Get it son, hashtag winner winner chicken dinner!” just sounds silly and even jarring. 

Other things that don’t translate to verbal language well include acronyms like LOL, IDK and ROFL. For the most part they sound improper and awkward when thrown in with words that tend to flow quite nicely when used properly, sort of like the noise of a big explosion being inserted into a symphony, and they also simply don’t make sense to people “not in the know” of what the acronyms, hashtags, or whatever else actually signify or stand for.

Interesting conversation or writing should transcend generation gaps and sound pleasant to the ear, something that can be ruined when digital conveniences are thrown into the mix.

Another bane to conversation is simply the lack of effort given into it. The hardest place you can be put into conversationally is when you’re dealt a topic within the verbal volley of things that you simply don’t care for.

However a common conversation killer is responding to these with a myriad of one-word replies. “Cool,” “nice,” “sweet,” all really short ways of essentially telling the person you’re talking to that you’re completely uninterested in what they have to say. This would be OK if you wanted to end the conversation then and there; however if you were to ever expect the other person to show any interest in what you have to say, well, do unto others as you would unto you. It really just kinda lets the other person down that you don’t care about what he has to say and typically halts any momentum the conversation held previously, as in the gist of things, conversation is all about flow and momentum of topics and responses. 

 Jarring terminology from the Internet and short thoughtless responses are killers to conversation but the largest threat to this endangered practice is avoidance of it all together. Conversation is healthy, allows the sharing of hopes and ideals, and is fun, sadly something easily lost in today’s text- based world. So for that reason I encourage all six people reading this to go out and try to have three conversations that last at least 10 minutes a piece with people of your choice a day. You’ll find yourself happier and with a better knowledge of the people around you, and maybe even yourself, so keeping my tips in mind, worry less about mastery of conversation and more about the joy of it. 

So go flex those social muscles and tell them what’s on your mind, and just try to keep your cool if their reply back to you is also indeed, “cool.”

Austin Czechowski is a junior at Cobleskill-Richmondville High School. Would you like A Word of Advice from him? Send him an email at, or send him a letter to “Teen Talk: A Word of Advice,” C/O The Daily Star, P.O. Box 250, Oneonta, NY 13820. ‘Teen Talk’ columns can be found at