Context is everything

February 6, 2012

One of the problems with Twitter is that you only have 140 characters in which to deliver your message. That’s also an advantage because you have to hone your writing skills significantly.

However, honing your writing often means that the context of your message is lost, with the result that it can be misinterpreted. Badly.

The other thing with Twitter messages is that you don’t always know how your message will be interpreted by your followers in other countries, or who speak other languages. Some words (particularly words that are colloquial, vernacular, or location-specific) just get lost in translation or are misinterpreted in ways you can’t imagine.

All this is a preamble to a public Tweet I read from someone I follow the other day (no names, of course!). She lives in the US; I live in Australia.

Here’s her original Tweet:

Original Tweet

Within minutes, quite a number of her followers from the UK, Australia, and other parts of US, contacted her directly to see if she meant what we thought she meant, especially in relation to the second sentence. ;-)

Shortly after, she Tweeted this:

Clarification Tweet

As I said, context is everything!

One comment

  1. As an aside, slang changes over time. I haven’t lived in the U.S. since 1980. There’s lots of slang that I don’t understand. I follow news and film from the U.S., but sometimes slang develops in situations – workplaces, etc. Even though these might be portrayed in film at some point, they can still be lost in translation. It’s why I identified so strongly with Bill Bryson’s “Hello! I’m a Stranger Here, Too” when it was published. A true stranger in a strange lange.

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