richard: (Default)
Richard ([personal profile] richard) wrote on December 12th, 2007 at 10:24 am
Formality is not hostility.

I know that this topic has been discussed earlier by others, but I feel that it is especially prudent to discuss it right now. I am leaving it public, and am crossposting it to other journals, because I consider it sufficiently important. It is based on personal experience. This is not directed at anyone on the Friends List. If you have any opinions on it, do tell me.

Formal language and presentations do not automatically mean that the party using them is deceptive, inscrutable, emotionless or hostile. Formality is a framework for expressing opinions, but formality in itself does not preclude honesty, comprehension, emotion or friendliness. We have dealt with such assumptions about us, before, especially I, since my presentation is supposedly formal. Rather, such linguistic preferences usually come from upbringing, education, personal disposition or preference. I believe that a lot of the hostility towards formal language and presentation is related to the 'bastard' and 'snark' cultures that seem to be ubiquitous now.

We must do away with the idea that formality indicates deception. Anglophone culture has supported the idea of 'plain speaking' for the past fifty years, approximately, and popular culture supports that notion. I believe that much of this is related to the concomitant anti-intellectualism that 'snark' and 'bastard culture' seem to promote, as well. One depicts heroes as being plain-spoken, 'good ol' honest Everymen', and villains as being eloquent, well-spoken and formal. (One might also notice all the 'Doctors' and 'Professors' amongst the villains, but that is another, tangentially related, subject.) It stands to reason that people will interpret formal speech and wriitng as deceptive, since that is the idea that this culture has inculcated into them. Intellectuals are not to be trusted, because their ideas are hard to digest; therefore, we must not trust anyone who sounds intellectual. One must learn that formality does not necessarily mean obfuscation, and that a formal interaction can be just as open and honest as an informal one.

Secondly, formal language and behaviour do not necessarily show that one is being inscrutable, emotionless or hostile. I have been told, by more than one person, that it is difficult to ascertain what I am thinking because I express myself in a particular way. We have also been told that we sound unfriendly. It is as though feelings are not 'real' unless they are expressed in the form of profanity, 'plain speech' and inelegant language. I believe that this is tied to the idea that formality is linked to deception. If I feel adamant about something, I am going to be frank about it. I usually do not hide my distaste or moral outrage when it is appropriate to show such feelings. I am not emotionless because I choose not to use colloquial language. In fact, I consider myself a very passionate person, and there are times at which I hold very strong opinions. I am not unfriendly because I use formal language. (In fact, I try to be as friendly and gracious as possible!) It is simply that I feel no need to couch such feelings in colloquial language when that is atypical of me in the first place. It is unreasonable to expect that of me, or of other people who prefer to use more formal language.

It is pernicious, dangerous and truly upsetting to hear that people have these interpretations of formal language and conduct. I think that I should do something about it, honestly.

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