Franks and Quaints
|September 22, 2011||Posted by Sophy Bot under Internet culture, Social networks|
Chances are, you’ve said it or heard somebody say it within the last day: “Oh yeah, I’ve got a friend who’s involved in that / has worked with them / has one of those / also collects mint condition Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figures.” With the rise of internet groups and social networks, the average individual is connected to more people than ever before. Whereas once your social ties were limited to your immediate geographic area, the internet allows you to connect with people all around the world. What’s more than that, the nature of social networks allows you to stay connected. That elementary school friend that moved to another state is no longer lost to the ages – she’s right there on Facebook, and apparently she’s now got three kids and likes ham sandwiches.
Your average Facebook user has 130 friends. That’s 130 jobs, 130 homes, 130 wardrobes and 130 lifestyles, the elements of which all flash upon your news feed on a daily basis. So when in casual conversation, somebody mentions that cool new music streaming service they’ve just joined, there’s a good chance you’ll respond, “Oh yeah, I’ve got a friend who uses that.” But is “friend” really the right word?
I brought this question up at a party last night, asking why we don’t have a shorter form of the word “acquaintance,” because, let’s be honest, most of the time that’s actually what we’re talking about. I asked if we couldn’t shorten it to quaint, saying “Oh yeah, I’ve got a quaint who does that.” At this point, one of my conversational partners looked around the room and asked, “Well no, quaint wouldn’t really be appropriate for these people here, would it?” And indeed, standing in a photography studio surrounded by taxidermied animals and pop art and the kind of mad crowd that would gather in such a clandestine setting, I had to agree.
“What about Franks?” asked another conversational partner. “You could call those other people Franks. You could have a Frank who does that.”
As we discussed the matter further, the conclusion we came to was this: it’s true that many of the people we refer to as “friends” in everyday conversation are actually no more than acquaintances. It’s also true that the word “acquaintance” has a stiff, formal tone to it, and just isn’t as simple to use as “friend.” A new word is needed. And so, Internet, I pose to you a challenge. We are the generation that got LOL, OMG, <3 and mankini added to the Oxford English Dictionary. We’re quite adept at creating and adopting consistently new slang. So why have we not yet created a simple word for the type of acquaintance that we all have a lot more of these days? Any suggestions?
Photo credit: Rubenstein
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