From tech support to smilies

Surfing for a cute quote to put in an oped, I stumbled across these, from the website of French writer and rockclimber Guillaume Dargaud.

Q: How many tech support people does it take to change a light bulb?
A: We have an exact copy of the light bulb here and it seems to be working fine. Can you tell me what kind of system you have? Okay, just exactly how dark is it? Okay. There could be four or five things wrong. Have you tried the light switch?

“The Internet ? Is that thing still around ?” — Homer Simpson.

“The computer allows you to make mistakes faster than any other invention, with the possible exception of handguns and tequila.” — Mitch Ratcliffe.

“The smiley is an attack on writers and readers alike. If it is funny, it doesn’t need a smiley. If is not funny, a smiley won’t help it. The smiley teaches writers that anything they write will pass as humor as long as it is punctuated properly. It teaches readers that they must ignore their better judgment, and look only at punctuation to determine intent.” — Jim Showalter.

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3 Responses to From tech support to smilies

  1. Andrew Norton says:

    I think Showalter is wrong about the function of a smiley. With the rise of email, SMS etc we are writing things that were in the past usually only said, where tone of voice and body language could indicate whether we were being serious or not, without slabs of surrounding text providing the context. The smiley is very rarely seen in conventional writing, where the context determines ‘intent’.

  2. Peter says:

    AN, I agree with you. What is funny is extremely culturally-dependant, as any Australian or Brit talking to an American learns very quickly. Adding a smiley to email messages helps ensure that an ironic or sarcastic statement is not misinterpreted.

  3. Christine says:

    Another agreement on the smiley. Yes, it is misused sometimes (one in any given passage is more than enough), but it does give you cues that you would normally pick up other ways. Especially important when, as in blogs, the people reading don’t know you or have a feeling for your sense of humour.

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