"Timmy, your word is AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA."
"May I have the definition, please?"
"Screaming excitement; unbridled delight."
"May I have the part of speech?"
"Can you use it in a sentence?"
"I got the job? AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA, I got the job!!!!"
Could this be an exchange between judge and speller from the 2062 Spelling Bee? Uh, probably not. But we bring it up because a couple of enterprising linguists out of the Royal College of Art are attempting to codify the emotion-filled grunts and utterances we use when chatting online, on AIM or Facebook or MSN Messenger.
The project is called the Sound-Word Index. The site -- appropriately housed at http://ohhhhhhhhh.co.uk -- was founded by Blanche de Lasa and Stina Gromark and exists as a kind of Dictionary of Gchat Emotion, aggregating all the different "sound-words" we use to convey our feelings on the Internet, words like "ARGH" and "EEEEK" whose meanings sentiments seem clear but whose precise definitions and pronunciations have never been written down.
From the start, the site notes the impotence of written (or typed) language to effectively capture the emotions we can convey with our voices and body language. According to the site's intro:
Emotions and their sound can invade our digital messages. Our words become flexible and vibrate according to the volume of our voices, transforming their written form into an expressive and resonating language. Without the help of body language, words can sometimes fall short in our digital conversations. However, sound, volume and rhythm can influence the spelling of our words, helping to translate our emotions hidden behind our screens.
In order to translate those emotions, the website provides for each word a definition, its part of speech, and how one would use it in a sentence. For example, "AAAAAAHAHAHAH" is an interjection that signifies that you slowly get a joke and then laugh about it. The example sentence given: "I finally got what you ment in your text yesterday, aaaaaahahahah it made me laugh so much!"
The words, in addition to being parsed, come with spoken audio examples (I especially recommend "AAAAAAAAAAAA" and "EYYYYYWWWWWW") and are categorized by whether the word gains meaning through rhythm/repetition, fluctuations in sound, or fluctuations in volume.
A taste of the words in the Sound-Word Index:
- "GHAAAAAA," a sound of frustration, as in "Ghaaaaaaa I missed my flight :("
- "AGGGH," an expression of discombobulation, as in "Aggh, is it time to go already?"
- "PFFFFFFFF," as in "Pfffff, this is stupid."
....and many, many more. Plus, if you don't see the sound-word you personally use most often, you can submit your own sound-word. Frankly, I can't believe "BLEHHHHHH" isn't already included, though perhaps I just express my disgust by feigning nausea in my online chats more than the average user.
You can visit the Sound-Word Index right here. Prepare to, at the very least, think harder about text message lingo than you ever have before.
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