Stan, Diane and Grace sat at a table in a quiet corner of the Diogenes Club’s annual Spring party. Without warning, Stan grabbed at his hip and pulled out his Blackberry. Diane shot an angry look across the table toward Grace.
Grace took the hint and leaned toward Stan. “Put that thing away. It’s rude.”
Stan read his message and shook his head in disgust. “Can you believe this?”
“What? That you lack decorum? Not at all,” said Diane.
Stan snapped his attention back to the others seated at the table. “Decorum. Great word, Diane.”
“It was meant to be an insult.”
“Yes, but it was elegant. You used the proper word at the proper time. It’s fantastic,” said Stan, genuinely impressed.
“Have you ever been insulted by someone with a British accent?” asked Grace. “It sounds so cultured you want to thank them for the privilege.”
“It’s not like this text I got from my boss. ‘howz it goin wrt 2 ur pjct need 2 c tues aft ttyl’. It’s embarrassing. I wouldn’t send my dog a message like that, much less send it as a business text.”
“I think you should protest by putting your crackberry away and joining us in the virtual world,” said Diane.
“You know what it’s like?” asked Stan.
“Annoying?” said Diane.
“It’s intellectually lazy. Language should be precise, just like when you used the word ‘decorum’. It reflects intelligence. It reflects well on your character.”
“You said ‘reflects’ twice,” said Diane.
Stan gave a puzzled look. “Yeah, but you got my meaning. Language should have scientific precision.”
“I don’t think that’s right. Don’t they call it language arts? At least they did when I was in school. Do they still call it that? If they don’t, they should,” said Grace.
“What’s the point of language if it lacks clarity? Take the text I just got. It’s a mess. No concern for spelling, no punctuation, it’s a shock I even understood what he was trying to say,” said Stan.
“That’s true. You haven’t understood a word I’ve been saying,” said Diane.
“Come to think of it, English doesn’t make much sense if you don’t see it as an art,” said Grace. She was staring blankly at the ceiling. “Take the word ‘throw’. You can throw up, throw down, throw in, throw out, but none of them have anything to do with the physical act of throwing.”
“Grace, what are you talking about?” asked Stan.
“You said language should be precise, like science. I’m not really sure that science is all that precise, but anyhow, I’m saying language is an art. It’s both expression and interpretation. What’s the good expressing yourself if no one understands you?”
“Exactly,” said Stan.
In exasperation, Diane got up from the table, snatched Stan’s Blackberry from his hand and dropped it in a glass of water.
“What’d you do that for?” said Stan.
“It’s sign language,” said Diane as she sat back down. “Precise enough for you?”