Virginia Heffernan on the perils of quoting sources on the Interwebs:
I am stumped by how to excerpt the language on message boards and blogs.Take a passage signed by zipthwung, an astute online commenter: pornography if for the ruling classes and their violent vulgar all consuming appetites. Or their slaves.Interesting. But so as not to distract you with the typos, should I have repunctuated it, adding commas and plunking a hyphen into all-consuming? Should I have turned that if to is?Zipthwung I can testify, as a longtime fan is a poet and a mystic. Maybe he means if. Dude thinks that way. Oh, but theres more. Before quoting him, should I have determined his real name? Gender? Profession? Home address?Week after week, these questions dog me. Sometimes I opt to copy words and paste them into the text of a column to quote verbatim. I treat message-board words as if they had been written in books, articles, brochures or press releases. Is that what zipthwung wants? Should I care?snip My problem with message-board language brings up a prior problem in journalism: the difficulty of translating spoken language into written language. The philosopher Jacques Derrida gained notoriety by dimming the bright line between what was known in strange pre-Internet lingo (French, was it?) as langue and parole. He thought the written-spoken distinction was suspect and by turns collapsed and reasserted itself in the merry game of signification.Nothing works more Frenchly and merrily this way shape-shifting at a rapid pace than Internet language, which morphs from standard English (a dialect of which has become the Webs lingua franca) to other languages and dialects to slang and emoticons and acronyms and phonetic miscellany. (Take hey guys, im stoopid. DOH! meh. GAH. :O wth. Can this communication be taken as an admission of some kind of error? Can it be faithfully paraphrased as she admitted her mistake on a message board?) I cant tell how much of this keycap casserole belongs in ink on paper or how much of it makes sense there.
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