Many articles have been written about the differences between face-to-face communication and the variety of text-based communication found on the Internet. While many people treat IRC or Instant Message-type programs as being wholly equal to face-to-face, there are occasional misunderstandings due to not having the added information of facial expressions or gestures. For example, something intended to be taken humorously could be perceived as an opinion actually held, leading to a potential falling out. Or, quite often, there will be a conversation, where one person is reading what the other person has to say, but has nothing to add themselves.
In a face-to-face conversation, this isn’t a problem. The listener would be able to nod, and the speaker would realize that the listener is engaged in what is being said and wishes to hear more. However, in a solely text-based medium, there is no way to silently nod, and so if the other person doesn‘t reply in the natural pauses, the “speaker” may think the other party has gone idle, or worse, is bored.
Normally, to combat this, the “listener” will respond with comments of very little conversational value. Statements like “I see,” or “Yes,” or ‘That’s true,” that add very little to what’s being said. Sometimes the “listener” is forced to cheat and use constructions like “*nods*” to add false actions to the realm of words. Of course, even these types of comments can (intentionally or not) convey disinterest; to avoid this, the “listener” might feel compelled to respond with an Eliza-like parroting of what the “speaker” just wrote. These sorts of comments are not only as empty as the shorter phrases, but are even worse; these comments take longer to read by masking themselves as content. They can also occasionally derail the “speaker” from their main point if the parroted comment is perceived as a request for clarification on a certain point.
To combat such misunderstandings, I propose a new word to be used in these situations. It is a word that has no need for a pronunciation, merely because this word would never come up in audible conversations. Its only definition would be “I do not have anything to add, but am interested in what you are saying. Please continue.” My proposed word: jjjjjj.
“jjjjjj” is easy to type; it’s merely striking the “j” key, found on the home row on QWERTY keyboards under the right index finger, six times. No additional hand movements need to be made, which is not the case for “I agree” or “Yes, please continue.” Since “jjjjjj” is always written in lowercase, the left hand doesn‘t even need to press the shift key to capitalize the first character. The nature of the meaning of “jjjjjj” means there is never any need to “shout” it by placing it in all-caps, which is typically more difficult to read than all-lowercase (though, admittedly, the easiest to read has been determined to be sentence case; however, I am willing to forgo that for the simplicity of typing “jjjjjj”).
jjjjjj also features no vowels, nor any phonological constructs similar to existing words in the English language (nor most other languages that I know, though this claim has not been tested), which makes it easy to spot at a glance and recognize the meaning immediately. Since jjjjjj has no inherent meaning other than its assigned definition, it’s easily transplantable into other languages. “jjjjjj” means the same in Spanish as it does in English. For languages that don’t use a roman character set, there could be a set of accepted translations of jjjjjj. For written languages that use alphabets, it should be a character repeated six times, preferably a non-vowel located in the same key area as “j” on a standard keyboard. For ideographs, perhaps a character that is used only as a modifier on other ideographs repeated six times could be used (this is merely a suggestion; I have never used a computer in a language that uses ideographs, so I do not know how they are constructed on a keyboard). Ideally, jjjjjj equivalents would be as unpronounceable as the English jjjjjj is; an equivalent with the sound of “ssssss” wouldn’t work, nor would “rrrrrr”. A good rule of thumb would be to see if the suggested equivalent could be used easily as onomatopoeia; these suggestions would be rejected, as “ssssss” can be written to signify a snake’s hiss, and “rrrrrr” a dog’s growl.
Care must be taken to use “jjjjjj” correctly, as to not dilute its meaning. One should not use “jjjjjj” as a greeting, for example. Though one may not have anything to add to a person saying “hello”, it is best to return with a similar word designated for that purpose, such as “hi”, lest the initial person think the replying person rude. “jjjjjj” should also not be used in an instance where one actually does have something to add, but they cannot say it quite at that moment. That would be misleading to the “speaker”. Of course, “jjjjjj” should not be used sarcastically – the purpose of “jjjjjj” is to make text-based conversation easier, and since “jjjjjj” is at its core an empty vessel of meaning, to use it sarcastically would make understanding even more difficult. This is obviously something to be avoided.
Please do not name things “jjjjjj”. By doing such, you’re assigning a separate meaning to “jjjjjj”, which leads to confusion. Since “jjjjjj” is unpronounceable, not only are you creating difficulty in text-based communication by adding a labeling-duty to “jjjjjj”, you’re making problems in the realms of audible speech as you could not accurately speak about whatever you had named “jjjjjj”. It would be very difficult to call your dog, for example. After all, who would want a name no one could say? It would be a cruel joke to both the unfortunate named “jjjjjj” and to the people who use “jjjjjj” to mean what it is intended to mean. I realize that “jjjjjj” is an attractive form, but sometimes things of beauty should be left to their natural environment. Everyone’s heard the story of the beautiful flower that is cut and taken home to be put in an expensive vase where the flower dies – “jjjjjj” is that flower. Leave “jjjjjj” in its home, representing what it is meant to represent, and we will all be happier. “jjjjjj” will that way be around for generations to appreciate and use correctly. Treat “jjjjjj” how it wants to be treated, and “jjjjjj” will be kind to you by providing a way to express your interest without lying to or accidentally alienating your friends.
“jjjjjj” is my gift to you. Please use it wisely.