NORFOLK, VA. — To better understand modern miscommunication I dissected the words: text- message. With today's proliferation of BlackBerrys, cellphones, and wireless cafes, how you use the written word is akin to a fashion statement. Consider the ubiquitous famous quotations that have become a standard e-mail closer.
Why is it we suddenly love to express ourselves using someone else's words? Maybe the now- common practice of using words so frugally and abbreviated so harshly (c u 2nite), makes us want to give a little word gift at the end of our e-mails like an elaborately wrapped mint on a hotel pillow. But what we are really saying is, "I don't have time to write anything lovely just now, so here's a mental nummy by someone else."
No wonder you can google the word "quotation" and see your computer screen erupt with thousands of sites offering ways to demonstrate how e-funny, e-spiritual, and e-intellectual, we can be.
There are even e-mail etiquette sites giving guidelines such as www.iwillfollow.com, which cautions those who add a signature quote: "If you choose this option, I would recommend that the quote be something that is a reflection of yourself. Keep it short. You don't want the quote to be longer than the message."
I have made a little collection of the snipwits I have received, ranging from the sublime to the accidentally ridiculous. However, a university administrator I know has one I approve: " 'Only action reveals the nature of our intelligence and the worth of our character.' – Gustave Le Bon." I view that one as quote-speak for "You can't fool me with your obscure quotes!"
One reserved fellow, whom I can only assume has had a bad marital experience of late, ends all his e-mails with these words by Oscar Wilde: "Bigamy is having one wife too many. Monogamy is the same."
The teacher who tacks on: "Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else," made me wonder what she really thinks of my kids.
My favorites are the quotes that oppose e-mail's content; the rude message mail ending with a biblical quotation. (The Lord surely works in mirthful ways.)
A prime example is an e-mail I received from a reader who violently disagreed with my assessments of Pat Robertson's bizarre attacks on, well, everyone. He wrote, "All you Americans are violent morons. Somebody should call for your death!" That was followed by, "God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him." I John 4:6,16.
On a lighter note, I once received the e-mail, "I can't decide where to go to lunch, too many choices. Any ideas?" The signature quote was from Deepak Chopra: "You and I are essentially infinite choice-makers. In every moment of our existence, we are in that field of all possibilities where we have access to an infinity of choices."
Perhaps our e-mail would run afoul of itself less often if we reread our chosen quotes before sending words by which we may long be remembered.
• Lisa Suhay is a children's book author and writer for Old Dominion University publications.