Misunderstandings in writing of all forms

Over the past two weeks, I have found myself thinking about suspicious pants more and more. When I first looked at the pants, I could not understand why they were so special, nor why they were on the syllabus for my English 203 class. Since it was summer, I pushed the pants out of my head and went back to relaxing by the pool. I didn’t put much more thought into the pants until the first day of class. After being told to interpret the pants, I was left stuck. I mean, they were just pants. What is so special about a pair of pants draped over a chair? Neither I nor my group understood that it was not the pants that we were interpreting. But the caption. The twitter post was captioned “Suspicious pants.” I didn’t pick up on this at first, but the sentence can be interpreted in many ways. Were we suspicious of the pants, or are they suspicious of us? When one of my classmates brought that up, I started to understand the beauty of the pants. It was at that point Profesor McCoy quoted Percival Everett’s Erasure “It’s incredible that a sentence is ever understood.” This resonates with me because not only did it make the pants assignment make sense, but it also got me thinking about how, with social media, it is becoming harder and harder to get the real meaning. Still using the pants example, if you heard the caption spoken, maybe you could decipher its meaning.
My mother always used to tell me to never text your friends about important things or during arguments, because you can easily misinterpret what they are saying without hearing their voice. Now everyone always knows that your mother is always right, but it was at this moment I realized how right she was. The Odyssey Online wrote an article discussing how, through social media, miscommunications are becoming more common. This is due to the many parts of unspoken social cues that drive the conversation. For more on nonverbal communication and the science behind it, check out The Nonverbal Group. When things are written, it is very easy to misinterpret a text, tweet, or even a book due to the missing conversational cues. I’m sure everyone has read a book for school and come in to discuss it and find out that they misinterpreted the entire thing. Although recently Professor McCoy has discussed that there are many interpretations and none of them are wrong, I have definitely had my fair share of way off the mark interpretations. Some of my worst interpretations, however, were not based on literature. I’m sure everyone has misread a text in a way that made the sender seem mad, or passive-aggressive. It these misinterpretations that cause arguments and end friendships. I think that the tweet in reference shows just how easy it is for a message to get lost.
It is at this point that I am wondering whether this was a problem back in the letter-writing days. I’m sure it must have been. Even though the language is always changing and evolving, language couldn’t have evolved too much over the past 50 years. Not enough to have really made a difference in our understanding of writing. But also, if language could be understood so easily 50 years ago, why would we struggle with it today? Have we gone backward since the days of writing letters? Or maybe it is not the writing, but the proofing. If language was understood years ago, maybe the act of proofreading made it easier to understand. Today, very few make sure their texts make sense before the send them. Very few check their grammar and spelling before posting a tweet. Maybe that is what my mother was always talking about. If one reads over their message or post before they send it, they can clear up any grey area in the message.
I doubt this would solve anything. Everyone thinks differently, which I believe is the point of the exercise Professor McCoy had us do on the first day of class. To show that everyone has a different mindset and point of view. No one will see anything the same way. We all bring different things to the table. On the discussion of the pants, I questioned the meaning of the account name, while my group member, Kevin, discussed how humans see faces in almost anything, which leads us to see the face in the pants. Both are different interpretations of the same thing.
If we can have so many interpretations of something as basic as a tweet about “Suspicious pants,” then imagine what other things people can see in different ways. From pieces of art to the dress from 2015, everyone sees things differently. The most important thing when interpreting things is to remember that everyone has their own interpretation and they are all valid. If we can open up and listen to other people’s interpretations, even if they are about pants, you can learn something new, and maybe even get a blog post out of it.

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