Exs and Ohs

So this past week I received a Facebook message from my ex, and instead of internally dissect every word and comma (as one usually does when encountering such a message), I have decided instead to examine its form and content with an academic eye- because if I’m going to overanalyze something, why not learn from it?

“I want to talk more later as friends if you are willing.”

The specific sentence I’ve selected is quoted above. This excerpt may be short, but its also full of meaning. There is a lack of punctuation, which generally eludes to a more casual atmosphere. However the wording, “if you are willing”, leans towards a stricter and more formal interaction. An interesting addition to the sentence are the words “as friends”. Given the context, these two words can hold a vastly different meaning. “As friends” can be taken as a lighter or inviting phrase, saying that the author is hoping that differences can be put aside, and two people who may not have always been friendly towards each other can still communicate. On the flip side of that coin, “as friends” can be seen as an attempt to “pump the brakes” or set boundaries- a way to say “this meeting is friendly/ cordial at best”.

Just as it’s interesting to examine what’s present in this sentence, its also important to consider whats absent. The author starts the sentence by discussing themselves, then ends by talking about the reader. Therefore, the main subject of this sentence is the author, with the reader coming second. The verb of this sentence is “want” (the author wants). An alternative way to write this sentence would have been putting the reader at the beginning, “If you are willing…”, or even switching “you” and “I” (“If you want…. I am willing). The fact the author holds the stronger, more assertive verb “want”, while the reader “is willing” also hints at a power dynamic- but this power dynamic could go either way too. One reading would put the author in a more dominant spot, since they want to meet while the reader is merely willing. However, it could be read that the author is extending themselves, saying that they want an action to occur, but only if the reader is willing to agree (putting the reader in a position of power).

The last thing that can be dissected is the choice of the word “talk”. In today’s millennial culture, many words have taken up numerous different meanings depending on their context- “talk” is one such word. Talk can refer to the step which a couple takes before dating (those two are talking), it can reference the actual verb of physically being in a shared built environment and exchanging dialog (we talked in class), or it can elude to messaging back and forth over text, instant messaging, etc. (we were talking till midnight over dm’s). The fact that “talk” was chosen here makes this a very open-ended sentence, which ultimately allows the author to dictate their own meaning from the word with the reader being left unsure.

Overall, the english language is extremely complex, and even a simple 12 word sentence has the power to bewilder…

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