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Look. Listen. Over There.

November 10, 2002

Have you noticed? Strangest thing. On TV now. Mainly news. Also promos. Sentence fragments. Like this. Short word bursts. Like this. Colorful verbs. Vanished. Whole sentences. Gone. Intelligent discourse. Poof. How? What's happening? Sure, Americans always hurry. Big-time. We hurry; therefore, we are. Gotta go.

But. Now. More TV reporters talking funny. "President Bush in Georgia today. Campaigning for Republicans." Cool? Hip? Not! "West Coast ports. Back at work. Choking on cargo." Caffeine? New disease? Contagious? Brain burps? Saving cell minutes? Also creeping informality. We've used contractions forever. Slur speech too, dontcha know. Also like abbreviations, acronyms: It's "fax," "e-mail" and "nuke" 'cause they're faster than "facsimile," "electronic mail" and "microwave." Now comes TV Qwik-Speak (QS). QS sounds informed, dramatic, unburdened by elaboration. "Today. Off the Louisiana coast. An oil slick, miles long. Moving toward shore." Affectation? Like torn jeans? Sideways ball caps? Or just lazy?

Admittedly, communicating in complete sentences with subjects, verbs and objects, also adjectives, adverbs (and parenthetical asides) takes time. And thought too. Ears hear words; they don't gulp them like a lunch to-go. Ponder this: Whole thoughts and complete sentences involve listeners more. They make us think, allow for connections, perhaps even relate and respond to each other. It's the difference between talking to or at someone.

Careful word choice, apt alliteration, clever construction, metaphors as warm as the hearth at Grandma's, they all add nuance and lushness to thoughts and ideas. Such exchanges convey beyond words and pictures. They make links, one to one, despite so many rapid, bewildering changes, large and small, all around.

Word bursts jar. They push people away. Impersonal. Superficial. Distant. Like dashing through a gorgeous forest on flagstones. You can do it. But what's to feel, savor and remember afterward? Life spans lengthen but time's still short. Especially on TV. Our common cultural touchstone. Where time is sliced too thin for thought. Izzit better to be fast? Or comprehended?

Very tiring, speaking staccato. Also listening. Reading staccato the worst. Eyes can't gulp either. Must stop. QS: wave of the future? Please. Not.

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