Monday, December 8, 2008
Teasing and Betterment?
This is a very good piece on the language and 'culture' of teasing and how it differs from bullying.
"As they departed in sex-segregated lines, my daughters stood transfixed. Serafina asked me, “Why did that girl try to put the crab in the boy’s pants?” “Because she likes him,” I responded. This was an explanation Serafina and her older sister, Natalie, only partly understood. What I witnessed might be called “the teasing gap.”
"Teasing is just such an act of off-record communication: provocative commentary is shrouded in linguistic acts called “off-record markers” that suggest the commentary should not be taken literally. At the same time, teasing isn’t just goofing around. We tease to test bonds, and also to create them. To make it clear when we’re teasing, we use fleeting linguistic acts like alliteration, repetition, rhyming and, above all, exaggeration to signal that we don’t mean precisely what we’re saying. (“Playing the dozens,” a kind of ritualized teasing common in the inner city that is considered a precursor to rap, involves just this sort of rhyming: “Don’t talk about my mother ’cause you’ll make me mad/Don’t forget how many your mother had.”) We also often indicate we are teasing by going off-record with nonverbal gestures: elongated vowels and exaggerated pitch, mock expressions and the iconic wink, well-timed laughs and expressive caricatures. A whiny friend might be teased with a high-pitched imitation or a daughter might mock her obtuse father by mimicking his low-pitched voice. Preteens, sharp-tongued jesters that they are, tease their parents with exaggerated facial expressions of anger, disgust or fear, to satirize their guardians’ outdated moral indignation. Similarly, deadpan deliveries and asymmetrically raised eyebrows (Stephen Colbert), satirical smiles and edgy laughs (Jon Stewart) all signal that we don’t entirely mean what we say."
Read more here.