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Effects of Twitter Character Limit on the French Language, & a Blue Monkey

eebee's picture

An article on the Beeb website wonders whether the current trend of the more informal version of you in French (tu) is going to eclipse the formal vous, at least on Twitter, if not in real life. 

Twitter's character limit plays a role here, since it's less characters to use the familiar form, tu, than the more respectful version, vous. The article mentions French magazine editor Laurent Joffrin's question to a follower over Twitter last year: "Who told you it was ok to address me as "tu"?"

Joffrin has since stopped using Twitter and in fact, I agree partly with his assessment of it in general: "It doesn't bring people together. It heightens tensions". In many cases, I have found this to be true. Why would you tweet something you wouldn't dream of saying to your co-workers, family or even total strangers in person? Sometimes thoughts are better off staying inside one's head. Perhaps I shouldn't have written that. Maybe it's better for the world on the whole to be able to see up front what somebody really thinks about things, so we can all stay away? I'm still erring on the side of caution, or the "Better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt" philosophy - although I'd substitute "rude" in place of "stupid" here.

Perhaps it's age-relevant. I foresee hordes of now teen and twenty-something Twitter account holders scrambling to delete their accounts in five years' time when they realize they don't agree any more with some of their own previous yet still very visible thoughts. I'm really glad most of mine from that age were written on paper and either deliberately or accidentally thrown away or set on fire. It's not really just about caring what other people think of you: does anybody - at any age - really want to be prejudged? 

I have noticed things to have been a bit more relaxed in German between du and Sie since the 1980s, than in French. Through the 1990s at least in the business world, vous was still going strong. Although German could stand to ditch either ihr (informal plural you) or Sie (polite singular or plural you), even if that never confuses the Germans themselves, just us foreigners. Of course it might simply be that I'm older now, so the use of vous or Sie is less necessary as I encounter more people either my age or younger. 



To counteract my cynical thoughts on the nature of social-networking sites, here's a story of an internet-assisted reunion. Dare you to watch it and not cry! 


Although the crying is more about the Mom than the kid, along with some retroactive interference. Cute story, nonetheless.


roadskater's picture

Who Tol U Twas OK 2 Call Me U?

Great stuff! It'd be funny if English you became the u for all countries because of texting. I wonder how many are using u for you (in their non-English languages), 2 for to (or are they using it for tu in French), 4 for for (ha!), 8 for ate, b for be or bee, c for see, i for ich, k (for OK), etc. (I feel 6th after that, said Britishlike.) So what I'm saying is, I wonder how cross-lingual letter/number substitutions will take hold, and intentional msplngs 2. Yes I No letter names r diff elswhr but many seem to have learned the old English ja no. Speaking of Old English, lots of kids who don't exactly know proper English do a very good imitation of Beowulf without knowing it. It's pretty amazing to see that. And regarding the French, if they just type the way they talk it would save a whole bunch o'letters! Seems like the ends of words are archaic in the spoken language form what I can decipher. 


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