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Insight by Night - Impressions and Expressions of Ijon — LiveJournal
December 29th, 2003
01:25 am

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Insight by Night

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From:ling_tso
Date:December 29th, 2003 06:50 am (UTC)

Fascinating topic

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I sympathize with your unwillingness to play games, but there are other ways to avoid game-playing besudes staunchly preserving your innocence. What tends to work for me is asking explicit questions about subtext. "Did you say that just to be polite?" If I dislike the way the person is behaving, I suggest an alternative behavior, and explain why (s)he should pursue it instead. "We don't have to be talking every second. If I make you nervous, we can do something constructive instead of sitting around trying to think of things to say. Let's bake a loaf of bread." Often, this makes people less embarassed about saying what they mean and more embarassed about not saying what they mean.

Of course, too much of this can be incredibly annoying. The hope is that people get to the point where I don't need to do it (and yes, that I get to the point where other people don't need to do it to me). This post seems like a step in the right direction.

Anyhow, I'm a little skeptical of your naivite. Whenever I post things that mean, "I'm showing off! Pay me a compliment, dahhling!" you seem always to pay me a compliment, dahhling.

A philosophical question: how do you tell what's explicit and what isn't? If you say, "How do you work this drill?" and I say, "There's a book over there," then part of what I've meant is, "You can find the information you want in the book", and another part of what I've meant is, "I don't feel like explaining it to you; I'm busy with something else". Is either of these messages subtext? My feeling is that the first one is as good as explicit, but that the second one is subtext. Maybe a good working definition of subtext is "information about the emotions of the speaker provided by context, inflexion, or bodily expression". So the first bit of drill information doesn't count as subtext (since it's about books and drills, not about emotions) whereas the second one does.

Of course, there are probably some residual questions about irony: does the point of Swift's A Modest Proposal count as subtext exactly?

Incidentally, I used to be terrible at reading people emotionally. It wasn't until I got into drama in college that I could understand why people ever failed to behave in accordance with their speech.
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