I’m apparently off to a promising start at being inflammatory or something. I already sort of offended the second close friend that I showed my first post to. My goals for the following are 1) to correct what went wrong so that strangers are not offended by things I don’t mean 2) to explain why I screwed up as an instance of my language difficulties 3) Abstractly explore language in the process of saying what I meant and finally 4) create a convention I can use to avoid this in the future while linking to this post.
Here’s what I didn’t mean:
I did’t mean to be addressing the reader, early in my last post when I was talking about not being a self-narrating zoo exhibit. I was arguing, out loud, for the blog to hear, at such people who might try to make me into such an exhibit, or any people who might tell me that that’s what I’m doing by expositing my internal experience to the general public in a theoretical way, as I intend to do. If you, the reader, are not one of these people, you are not who I am yelling at. I think that is probably clear to people who know the history of the phrase “self-narrating zoo exhibit” but I can’t be totally sure because I’m not very good at certain linguistic aspects of blogging that I’ll get into in a second. If you don’t know what a “self-narrating zoo exhibit” is, then I’m definitely not talking to you.
It also apparently sounded like I was only talking to neurotypicals which I’m not. I was primarily directing my anger at neurotypicals among the people behind the zoo exhibit phenomenon because I have a lot of sympathy for whatever oppressed people do to survive. But I was potentially arguing with fellow Autistics and other neuroatypicals that might theoretically shame this blog as some sort of vulgar display. Similarly, while I am inviting everybody to listen to what I have to say, the tone of that was directed at the doubters who I expect my first readers not to be.
I was also trying to run the whole zoo exhibit metaphor into the ground because I have it out for that metaphor. I’ll talk more about this in some other post.
But How Could This Have Happened Setrain?
Good question, bold text. I think the cruz of the issue is that standardly second person in a blog means the reader except in specific circumstances where it doesn’t that I didn’t manage to follow. This didn’t occur to me at all because I didn’t have any readers at the time I was writing that post because there was nothing to read. How could I be talking to readers when they didn’t exist. The answer of course is that they would at the time the message was received. Writing is often a dialog across time. This is incredibly counterintuitive to me.
This sort of tense and pronoun issue is one of the things that comes pretty naturally to most adults that I have to remember the rules for consciously. I have trouble remembering when you means me, because somebody is talking to me and things like that. I have trouble figuring out the timeline in sentences like “I was going to go to the store but a dog was in my way and it bit me before I could get there.” I often use the word “this” totally inappropriately when nobody can tell what it refers to.
What I’d like to be able to do:
I’d like to be able to yell at straw men like everybody else gets to. Linguistics distinguished the audience of an utterance from the addressee. The audience is the person being addressed grammatically, but the audience is the person you are really communicating to; they can be different. Cicero wrote speeches against other politicians that were addressed to his enemies, but who he really wanted to convince was the Senate. This is rhetorically effective and emotionally cathartic. It’s a lot better than having to go “What I’d like to say to those people is ‘___’! Take that, those people!” every time.
When speaking out loud I have figured out one the tricks people use to address somebody other than the audience, and can perform it crudely. It involves something I call “quote voice”, the voice you use to put words in somebody’s mouth, often to mock them or their position. Then a different but related voice is used to adress the quoted voice. I’m sure there are ways to do this in writing; I’m equally sure I don’t know them yet.
I’m aware that the internet is supposed to be a place that people like me can communicate more easily. It’s certainly true that I can write or type sometimes when I can’t talk and so it’s definitely good for that. I’m sure I would join many in the community in praising the internet as a better way of communicating if I was born 5 years later. But I spent my childhood with out it and I painstakingly learned some of the rules of verbal communication. I’m exhausted at the thought of learning to communicate in text, time asymmetrically, even if the rules are easier. I’ve procrastinated until now, and I’m only really starting to learn now. I’m certainly not going to wait 10 years till I’m decent at it before I start blogging. Instead I’m going to make stuff up.
Defining a Convention
Dear readers, when I adress you like this I am indeed addressing you, the readers, current, future and hypothetical. If I wanted to qualify I could have added qualifiers to the adress. If I don’t actually explicitly adress somebody then “you” does not default to meaning the reader. It doesn’t default at all. One should try to figure out from context who I am arguing against or otherwise talking about. They are the addressee. If you don’t know who I’m talking to, it’s almost certainly not you. Addresses like “dear readers” should be considered to last until the end of the bolded section they appear in, or until a new address. If they are at the head of a bulleted list they modify the whole list, but if they are in one item they are only relevant to that item. If you make a comment to ask a clarifying question about this or any similar language convention I define in the future, I will be your best friend forever.
To the friend in question, Thank you for giving me the idea for my second post. To the English Language, acquire third person imperatives and similar structures so this can be a little bit easier in the future.
To my hypothetical readers, I welcome you as readers whether you feel you have more in common with the first-person, second-person, various third-person, or any other hypothetical gramatical persons extracted from my opening essay. Or indeed if you just want to listen to me talking to or at various people and comment on us all in third person. Or yell at us, or whatever. I’m just talking in public here.