Variations dans les formes, les modalités et les langues en contact
Edited By Michael Abecassis and Gudrun Ledegen
The Message of the Text and the Text of the Message in Two Contemporary French Films: LOL (Laughing Out Loud) and De Rouille et d’Os (Marcelline Block)
The Message of the Text and the Text of the Message in Two Contemporary French Films: LOL (Laughing Out Loud) and De Rouille et d’Os
The fabric of texting is deeply embedded in the fabric of everyday life. Look around you: head-bowed, thumb-poised “textperts” are everywhere. They have been credited with developing a new shorthand language, vowel-poor, acronym-rich, and emoticon-laden that is largely unfathomable to older people. This new language has been praised by linguists for its creativity.
The popular impression, created largely by the media, is that the written language encountered on mobile phone screens is weird. It has been labelled “textese”, “slanguage”, a “new hi-tech lingo”, a “hybrid shorthand”, a “digital virus”. It has been described as “foreign”, “alien”, and “outlandish”. It is so much viewed as a new language that texters have been called “bilingual”.
Text messaging is prominently featured in two contemporary French-language films: Lisa Azuelos’s 2008 coming of age teenpic/romantic comedy LOL (Laughing Out Loud)®, set in the world of upper class Parisian lycéens,1 and De Rouille et d’Os (2012), Jacques Audiard’s haunting, critically acclaimed drama about loss, trauma and redemption. These two otherwise divergent narratives raise compelling questions about text ← 243 | 244 → messaging’s creative and disruptive potential as a force for reinvention of the French language. The following discussion considers the linguistic as well as sociocultural impact/implications of the significant presence of texting in both films.
Text messaging, introduced in the 1990s, is popularly known as the “texto” or SMS in France (Anis 2007). According to Jacques Anis (2007) in his analysis of French SMS and neography, “the beginning of the millennium saw an explosion of mobile telephony in which SMS played a significant role. In 2003, 9.8 billion SMS messages were sent in France, including 88 million on New Year’s Day alone”. The globally popular phenomenon of text messaging raises important questions, especially for youth culture, since “by 2009, texting had become the most popular form of communication among teenagers, surpassing email, instant messaging, social networking, and face-to-face communication” (Patterson 2013: 84), as demonstrated by one of the two films discussed in this article, LOL (Laughing Out Loud)®. LOL’s eponymous protagonist and core group of high school friends are characters that exemplify the predominance of SMS use among adolescents. Texting has been particularly examined in conjunction with its relationship to/association with youth/adolescent culture (see for example the work of Crispin Thurlow): according to McKay et al., whose research considers “some of the many ways that technologies such as the internet and mobile telephones are influencing and influenced by teens’ self-identity, relationships, social practices, family, schools, language and peer social groups” (2005: 186), “today’s teens have been branded the ‘net generation’ or ‘N-Gen’” (2005: 185) while Thurlow, a leading scholar of the sociolinguistics of the text message, dubs today’s teens “Generation Txt” (2003) in an article of the same name. All of this is reflected in LOL, which explores the adolescent group dynamic of the film’s eponymous leading character named Lol(a) and her friends as they experiment with the boundaries of friendship and love as well as explore their sexuality, frequently doing so via the language of new media, expressing themselves with abbreviations and neologisms as mediated through the technological apparatus of the laptop, and, most important for our purposes, the cell phone. While text messaging is not necessarily limited to teenagers, “the core mobile phone market is … under-45” (Reid and Reid 2004: 1) the age group to which the ← 244 | 245 → two protagonists of the other film discussed herewith, Audiard’s award-winning drama De Rouille et d’Os (2012), also belong.
Not only is texting “revolutionizing communication in today’s society” (Reid and Reid 2004: 1), but also, arguably, language itself, as it represents “a new language [which] has been praised by linguists for its creativity” (Patterson 2013: 84). Indeed, texting has been called “one of the most innovative linguistic phenomena of modern times” by David Crystal (2008: 172), and in a discussion of the inventive aspects of texting, its popularity among adolescents is especially worth noting, since “adolescents lead other age groups in linguistic change … and quite probably in the coining of lexical items, discourse markers, intonation patterns, and so forth” (Eckert 2003: 115). According to Cougnon and Beaufort in their work on SMS neologisms, “certaines caractéristiques de la pratique du sms entrainîent une très grande créativité linguistique … l’écrit sms favorise la création …” (2011: 191). Thurlow and Poff, who explore the concept of a “particular ‘language of texting’” (2011: 12) find that texting encapsulates the zeitgeist of our era, “where the diminutive, the brief, and the simple are highly prized in communication” (2011: 13); in Patterson’s words, “a ‘good’ text message … should be impulsive, flippant, and off-the-cuff” (2011: 87).2 Patterson further describes texting as “a new shorthand language, vowel-poor, acronym-rich, and emoticon-laden” (2011: 84), although he cites Carol Ann Duffy, Britain’s poet laureate, as a proponent of the language of texting, since she “argues that its power, as a new genre of writing, lies in that fact that it ‘allows feelings and ideas to travel big distances in a very condensed form’” (Duffy cited in Patterson 2013: 87). The emotional significance/impact of texting in both films – especially in regards to French-language texters – is discussed below.
Central to the diegetic unfolding of LOL (Laughing Out Loud)® and De rouille et d’Os (2012), is how “the practice of text messaging is deeply ← 245 | 246 → embedded in the fabric of everyday life. Look around you: head-bowed, thumb-poised ‘textperts’ are everywhere. They have been credited with developing a new shorthand language, vowel-poor, acronym-rich, and emoticon-laden that is largely unfathomable to older people” (Patterson 2013: 84). Beyond demonstrating the quotidian prevalence of text messaging, however, these two films further serve to demonstrate texting’s often vexed relationship with and impact upon the French language, such as in its creation of neologisms. In this comparative analysis, I examine text messaging and the use of SMS language as diegetic motor as well as tool for socio-cultural/linguistic innovation – in particular exemplary instances of SMS language such as the eponymous acronym/initialism “LOL” and the nonabbreviated spelling/syllabogram (or rebus writing, cf. Jacques Anis) “K LIN” (as a substitute for “câlin”/ “hugs”) in LOL (see Figure 1), and the neologism/abbreviation “opé” in De rouille et d’Os (see Figure 2) – as the common thread linking these two film narratives.
LOL (Laughing Out Loud)® is the coming of age story of 16-year-old Parisian lycéenne Lola (Christa Théret) and her circle of friends, which includes her former boyfriend Arthur (Félix Moati) – who becomes verbally and physically abusive toward her after their relationship ends – and her new love interest, her longtime friend Maël (Jérémy Kapone). Lola is referred to by her nickname “Lol”, a moniker that repeats and completes the SMS/text language embedded within the film’s very title: Lol/LOL becomes a triple inscription signifying at once the film’s female protagonist (Lol), its title (LOL), as well as the concept/meaning of “LOL” – as the film’s subtitle indicates, “laughing out loud” – a universal notion that transcends linguistic boundaries: LOL reverberates, worldwide, as a ubiquitous and universally recognized/understood term employed in all forms of electronic and new media communication (email, internet chatting, SMS/text messaging, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, etc).3 Also worth noting is that, although it is a French film, LOL’s title is written in two languages other than French: the SMS/text message term “LOL” followed by its standard/universal definition (the English “Laughing Out Loud”) rather ← 246 | 247 → than its French counterpart (“MDR”/ “mort de rire”4 or “to die of laughter”). According to Anis (2007), LOL “is not an acronym in the French context,” although he notes that the French “MDR” “is very frequent in chat but is used less in SMS messages”.
As opposed to the overall lightheartedness of LOL,5 De Rouille et d’Os is a tragic, haunting, and redemptive tale of life bringing together two emotionally and physically damaged, disillusioned protagonists who initiate an intimate relationship with each other: Oscar winner Marion Cotillard stars as Stéphanie, an attractive, formerly coquettish woman facing life alone after the loss of her legs in a horrific and violent incident at the amusement park where she trained killer whales, and Ali (Matthias Schoenharts, awarded the César for Most Promising Actor for his performance in this film), a single father struggling to support his young son by working as a security guard and making extra cash as a boxer in underground fighting rings. Text messaging plays a crucial role in the consummation of the physical relationship between Stéphanie and Ali: the word “opé” –short for “opérationnel” (“ready”) – sent in a text message functions as their personal code for scheduling an intimate rendez-vous (the text messages consisting of the word “opé” and their emotional significance for De rouille et d’os are discussed below) (see Figure 2).
The films differ in terms of their locations – starring French cinema icon Sophie Marceau as the mother of the film’s titular female teenage protagonist, LOL6 is set in the world of French students at an upscale lycée, le Lycée Jean-Baptiste-Say in Paris’ chic 16ème arrondissement, a milieu populated by wealthy French families (including the son of a government minister who is chauffeured to school) whereas De Rouille is situated in ← 247 | 248 → the grittier and less fashionable neighborhoods of the southern French beach town of Antibes, in the shadows of the glamourous resorts with which it is synonymous.
Despite these differences, upon closer viewing/reading, the films converge at several key points. These two narratives articulate their respective protagonists’ quests for love and search for acceptance through finding meaning in their lives. Most significantly for our purposes in this discussion, the medium of text messaging occupies a primary position in each film in terms of the development of personal relationships between characters: romantic in both films, and also, in the case of LOL, other types of close relationships such as those of friends and family members. When the small, close-knit group of teenage characters in LOL text each other and the couple in De Rouille et d’Os express their intimate desire for each other via text messaging, they reinforce what sociolinguistic research has discovered about texting in France, where texters “communicate predominantly with family or those in their innermost circle” (Thurlow and Poff 2011: 4) such as “close or intimate friends. Best friends and/or couples are the two relationships that are privileged with respect to the use of SMS,” (Rivière and Licoppe 2005: np), as opposed to, for instance, SMS usage in Japan where “mobile messaging is not seen as acceptable in such [amorous/romantic] contexts” (Rivière and Licoppe 2005: np).
Since text messaging is represented/treated in each film narrative at the levels of language, culture and meaning, LOL and De Rouille demonstrate how texting “is the latest manifestation of the human ability to be linguistically creative and to adapt language to suit the demands of diverse settings. In texting we are seeing, in a small way, language in evolution” (Crystal 2008: 175) or “the view of French as a ‘living language’” (Anis 2007: np). According to Cougnon and Beaufort, in their work on building a French SMS to Standard Language Dictionary, “when dealing with SMS, one has to cope with various issues: new linguistic phenomena, language processing difficulties and lexical resource limits. Linguistic phenomena in SMS go from phonetic and numeral scripts, abbreviations and capital letters, to intensive use of neologisms, language mixing and borrowing, through new code systems such as emoticons” (2009: 33), all of which are evidenced in the text messages used and represented in LOL and De Rouille et d’Os.
← 248 | 249 → These films showcase several sociolinguistic aspects of text messaging specific to French texters and texting in France, where “SMS is perceived … as completely different from any other form of electronic communication … as a rather singular form of communication” (Rivière and Licoppe 2005: np).
Both films support linguistic research about text messaging which finds that “in France the use of SMS is reserved to a core of close correspondents, and involves emotional bond management”, according to Rivière and Licoppe (2005: np), in terms of romantic as well as family relationships. In France, “a SMS is a sign of emotional attention that particularly befits amorous relationships, where the other person is considered a very special interlocutor … In France, SMS messages are mostly sent to close or intimate friends. Best friends and/or couples are the two relationships that are privileged with respect to the use of SMS, independent of age” (Rivière and Licoppe 2005: np), as seen in both LOL and De Rouille.
Not only does the texting in these two films, in which SMS is the communication medium reserved for close friends, family members and lovers, support Rivière and Licoppe’s notion of the emotional/small group aspect of text messaging in France, but also, it brings up some of the general linguistic phenomena related to SMS language as discussed above by Cougnon and Beaufort in their work on the French SMS, specifically relating to and engaging with the films’ French language context. The use of text messaging in these films demonstrate how, according to Crystal, “French texters rely more on written language, abbreviated or full, and make more use of word-play” (2008: 147) than do texters in other languages. Furthermore, according to Crispin Thurlow and Michele Poff, citing the research of Anis (2007) and Rivière and Licoppe (2005), “French texters use phonetic reductions, syllabograms or rebus writing (e.g. as with the English b4 for ‘before’), and logograms which are symbols, acronyms, and unilateral abbreviations and reduce spoken forms to writing” (2011: 5). One such example in LOL is the use of “T ou” (“Where r u”) in a text message as a substitution for “Tu es où?” (see Appendix B for a list of common French text abbreviations as well as rules and patterns).
In representing how their French adolescent and adult protagonists reinvent the French language to communicate via text messaging – whether ← 249 | 250 → through creating neologisms such as the abbreviation “opé” in De Rouille or engaging in clever word play such as “K LIN” as a substitute for the French word “câlin” (hugs) in LOL – LOL and De Rouille et d’Os serve to showcase the often radically and disruptively creative potential and innovative aspect of texting in French. The texting in these films thus oppose the claims that text messaging is “un nouvel outil de destruction de la langue” (Cougnon 2011: 189) or a mechanism that “corrupts all languages” (The Economist 2008), a concern especially relevant for France: “the French are touchy because theirs [language] is so much an emblem of national identity” (The Economist 2008). Indeed, according to Jacques Anis, “more strictly than for other European languages, the rules of French orthography are considered to be absolute law. Spoken language forms are typically not acceptable in writing” since “France has long been known for its language academy … and for preoccupations with linguistic prescriptivism and language purism” (Anis 2007: np).
In his analysis of neography in French SMS messages and its sociolinguistic impact, Anis (2007) finds that
it is not surprising that the abbreviated and often nonstandard orthography and grammar used in SMS messages have provoked the ire of [French] language purists, both online and offline. SMS spellings are controversial or prohibited in some French newsgroups. There is even a comité de lutte contre le langage SMS et les fautes volontaires (committee fighting against SMS language and deliberate errors).
Rather than corrupting French linguistic identity, however, in these two films, text messaging is represented as a means of opening a space allowing for the verbal expression of marginalized or Otherized characters finding their place in this world: in LOL, teenagers on the cusp of independence, rebelling against their parents and teachers while navigating the complex and difficult path to adulthood and its own rules, responsibilities, heartache and discontents (for further discussion of the “otherization”7 of ← 250 | 251 → adolescents by “the ubiquitous adult gaze and the construction of moral panics around the behavior of” as well as the language used by teenagers, see Eckert 2003: 116); in De rouille et d’os, adult characters, who exist at the fringes of society, struggle with challenges and obstacles preventing self-actualization: Stéphanie’s traumatic loss of bodily integrity and the poverty against which Ali struggles, breaking the law and sacrificing his own bodily integrity as a boxer in dangerous and illegal underground fights in order to earn money to support his son, for whom he is shown stealing food early in the film. For the adolescents of LOL who chafe against their parents’ and teachers’ dictates and rules – including proper grammar and vocabulary8 – text messaging functions as their truest, purest means of expressing themselves to each other and even to their families with whom they are in conflict (such as Lola and her mother, discussed below). This evokes Thurlow and Poff’s claim that “many of the typographic practices of texting offer more ‘correct,’ more ‘authentic,’ representations of speech to begin with … in their messages texters ‘write as if saying it’ to establish a more informal register, which in turn helps to do the kind of small talk and solidarity bonding they desire for maximizing sociality” (2011: 11). It is precisely this spontaneous quality that allows text messaging to innovate language, according to Cougnon and Beaufort: “l’écrit sms sera donc caractérisé comme suit: un écrit souvent spontané et familier, presque toujours créatif et ludique, autant de critères qui encouragent à la formation de mots et de sens nouveaux” (2011 : 191).
Moreover, “French users are very sensitive to the use of SMS to express feelings. Because of the asynchronous nature of text messaging and the lack of interactional cues, it is evident that the medium can free the author from many inhibitions and modesties in expressing his or her emotions,” (Rivière and Licoppe 2005: np) recalling Cougnon and Beaufort’s claim ← 251 | 252 → that texting “a tendance à inhiber les peurs traditionelles face à la communication” (2011: 191).
“In France, the sentimental value of SMS stems mostly from the way users will play with the standard conventions of writing to maximize the meaningfulness of a given message for his intended interlocutor” (Rivière and Licoppe 2005). The emotional/sentimental quality of texting as discussed by Rivière and Licoppe is evidenced in both LOL and De Rouille, in which text messaging is closely associated with romantic relationships, friendships and between loved ones such as family members.
For example, in several key scenes of the film LOL, after Lola and her mother Anne fight, they subsequently make up after Lol(a) texts her mother “K LIN,” a substitution for the French word “câlin” (“hugs”) (see Figure 1). In the sequence that immediately follows, Lola and Anne are shown hugging and cuddling together, clearly having reconciled after their disagreement. Note that the SMS word, “K LIN,” is rendered untranslatable by the film’s English subtitles which only give blank parentheses. In his 2007 “Neography: Unconventional Spelling in French SMS Text Messages”, Jacques Anis discusses the substitution of “c” by “k” in French text messaging as a form of nonabbreviated spelling. “K LIN,” would be, according to Anis, an example of a “syllabogram or rebus writing”: “the use of a letter or a number to represent the phonetic sequence that constitutes its realization in spoken language” (2007). The SMS/text message medium, platform and language thus prefigure and arguably allow for mother-daughter reconciliation at crucial moments in the film LOL, culminating in their physical act of hugging, upon which the film ends (in a reversal of the earlier “K LIN” scene, by the film’s end, it is Lol’s mother who initiates their reconciliation by contacting Lol over instant message computer chat, after which they are, again, immediately shown hugging each other, as the film lingers on its final word, “lol,” before fading to black).
SMS language and text messaging leads to a physical encounter of a much different sort for Stéphanie and Ali in De Rouille et d’Os. The private word they create and text to each other, “opé”, is the lovers’ SMS code for scheduling a rendez vous to physically consummate their relationship, allowing for the flourishing of their sexual and romantic relationship that eventually leads them both on a redemptive journey which culminates ← 252 | 253 → in healing: with the assistance of prosthetic legs and a cane, Stéphanie is able to walk, and, moreover, finds the peace and self-acceptance which she lacked at the start of the film when she was physically “whole” yet seeking to fill her emotional void by flaunting her alluring figure at nightclubs in order to provoke men into fighting over her and sparking her boyfriend’s jealousy. By the film’s end, she has found the love and acceptance of Ali and his son, and furthermore, is fulfilled by her new occupation as Ali’s manager. So too has Ali improved his life: no longer participating in illegal fighting, but after rigorous training and discipline he becomes a legitimate, successful boxing champion, capable of loving and caring for Stéphanie and his son.
Together, Ali and Stéphanie are fully “opé” (“operational”) by the film’s end, although when they initially begin texting “opé” to each other, they were anything but: Stéphanie was severely depressed as she tried to learn to live with her amputated limbs. Ali was incapable of accepting the responsibilities of single fatherhood and was often shown mistreating his young son culminating in a violent outburst when he cannot soothe his son’s crying, after which his sister removes the frightened boy from his care. It is Ali who creates the SMS abbreviation/neologism “opé,” explaining its meaning to Stéphanie after they first make love at her request since after the accident and amputation of her legs she feels unattractive and afraid of engaging in sexual intercourse with a man, a fear which Ali helps her overcome.
Their private lovers’ language and carnal pleasure is thus mediated through the language of text messaging. They create a new vocabulary, a new abbreviation/term, “opé,” which they use to refer to scheduling their lovers’ trysts. If she texts him “opé” and he is available, he will answer the call, so to speak, which culminates in their physical consummation.
In a later sequence in the film, the blossoming of Stéphanie’s feelings for Ali – and her newfound zest for life, despite the double amputation of her legs – is again inextricably intertwined with the cell phone and text messaging: she surreptitiously texts him, using their secret word “opé,” while interacting with her friends who are oblivious to what she is doing. She contacts him with her phone, hiding it under the table while she texts him, all the while engaging in conversation with her work friends (see Figure 2). This sequence serves to highlight one of the benefits of communicating ← 253 | 254 → by text message, namely, “that the messages can be sent quietly and discretely” (McKay et al. 2005: 196). This scene moreover illustrates a specific aspect of SMS to the French language context of the film, since, according to Crystal, in France, “texts are seen as a way of managing privacy in a public space, allowing communication while maintaining a silent presence” (2008: 147). Through surreptitiously texting Ali while interacting with her colleagues, Stéphanie negotiates the boundary between the public and private spheres: she can communicate her private desire for meeting with Ali while maintaining a silent, public façade that reveals absolutely nothing about their imminent erotic encounter (which occurs in the sequence immediately following this one).
Stéphanie and Ali express their most intimate desire for each other via one SMS word, “opé,” whose meaning shifts as their relationship moves from the purely physical encounters they schedule with each other to a substantial one of love and the creation of a new family. By the end of the film, their relationship has been transformed, becoming one of mutual commitment and caring, although it began as a means to gratify a sexual urge, no more, no less. Thus they have redefined the term “opé”; its meaning is shifting: from the “opé” of the “no strings attached booty call” to the emotional and physical operationality required for a committed romantic relationship, which is how the film concludes: with the success of Ali as a boxer due to Stéphanie’s management of his career, their love flourishes, as does her role as a surrogate mother figure to Ali’s son, whose biological mother has abandoned him. After (accidentally) exposing the boy to – and rescuing him from – a near-fatal accident, Ali is now a responsible father fully devoted to caring for his son.
De Rouille therefore moves from the language of a text message signifying a “hook up”/ “booty call” – in other words, a physical encounter without emotional ties – to a thriving career and family unit for Stéphanie, Ali and his son. The text message containing the SMS neologism/abbreviation “opé” functions as the instigator for this new chapter in all of their lives. The creation of this new word ultimately paves the way to a new life in which adult responsibilities of work, parenthood, and emotional maturity are not only accepted, but also, greatly enjoyed. Ironically it is the text message, considered an “adolescent” means of communication, which ← 254 | 255 → allows Stéphanie and Ali to mature and move beyond their previous states of immaturity and irresponsibility, working through their dysfunction and trauma from which they ultimately free themselves and reach self-actualization (recalling how in LOL, Lola and her mother put aside their differences and reconcile via text and instant messaging).
In both LOL (Laughing Out Loud)® and De Rouille et d’Os, therefore, it is not so much a question of harm to the French language that is raised by the significant presence of text messaging in both film’s diegeses, but rather, how SMS functions as a means of linguistic innovation and of communication of deep expressions of love, intimacy and the maintenance of “emotional bonds” between French-speaking texters – whether between family members or a couple in a relationship – demonstrating that for French texters, “the written [SMS] message is therefore often compared to a love letter that one keeps and reads over and over” (Rivière and Licoppe 2005: np).
Anis, Jacques, 2007, “Neography: Unconventional Spelling in French SMS Text Messages”, in Danet, Brenda & Herring, Susan (eds), The Multilingual Internet: Language, Culture, and Communication Online, 87–115. Kindle version.
Cougnon, Louise-Amélie & Beaufort, Richard, 2009, “SSLD: a French SMS to Standard Language Dictionary”, in Proceedings of eLexicography in the 21st century: New Applications, New Challenges (eLEX 2009), 33–42.
Cougnon, Louise-Amélie & Beaufort, Richard, 2011, « Néologie et sms », Neologica: Revue internationale de néologie, 5, 183–201.
Crystal, David, 2008, Txting: The Gr8 Deb8, Oxford, Oxford University Press.
Eckert, Penelope, 2003, “Language and Adolescent Peer Groups,” in Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 22, 112–118.
Jessen, Mia Kjær, 2009, « Le langage chat et SMS est-il une menace pour l’usage traditionnel de la langue? », BA Thesis, Aarhus School of Business.
McKay, Susan, Thurlow, Crispin & Zimmerman, Heather, 2005, “Wired Whizzes or Techno-Slaves? Young People and Their Emergent Communication ← 255 | 256 → Technologies”, in Williams, Angie & Thurlow, Crispin (eds), Talking Adolescence: Perspectives on Communication in the Teenage Years, New York, Peter Lang, 185–203.
Patterson, Anthony, 2013, “Digital Youth, Mobile Phones and Text Messaging: Assessing the Profound Impact of a Technological Afterthought,” in Belk, Russell & Llamas, Rosa (eds), The Digital Consumer, London, Routledge, 83–92.
Reid, Donna & Fraser, Reid, February 2004, “Insights into the Social and Psychological Effects of SMS Text Messaging”, <http://courses.educ.ubc.ca/etec540/May08/suz/assests/SocialEffectsOfTextMessaging.pdf>
Rivière, Carole Anne & Licoppe, Christian, 2005, “From Voice to Text: continuity and change in the use of mobile phones in France and Japan”, in Harper, Richard, Palen, Leysia & Taylor, Alex (ed), The Inside Text: Social, Cultural, and Design Perspectives on SMS, Berlin, Springer, 103–126. Kindle version.
Thurlow, Crispin, 2003, “Generation Txt? The sociolinguistics of young people’s text-messaging”, <http://extra.shu.ac.uk/daol/articles/v1/n1/a3/thurlow2002003-paper.html>
Thurlow, Crispin & Poff, Michele, 2011, “Text Messaging.” <http://www.crispinthurlow.net/papers/thurlow&poff(2010).pdf>
“Txt Msgng in Frnc: Parlez-vous SMS? A new Threat to the French Language,” The Economist, 22 May 2008, <http://www.economist.com/node/11412629>.
De Rouille et D’Os (2012), Jacques Audiard, dir., France 2 Cinema.
LOL (Laughing Out Loud)® (2008), Lisa Azuelos, dir., Pathé.
← 256 | 257 → Appendix A: Figure 1 and Figure 2: Screengrabs from LOL (Laughing Out Loud)® and De Rouille et d’Os, respectively
Figure 1: In Lisa Azuelos’ 2008 film LOL (Laughing Out Loud)®, after a disagreement with her mother, teenage protagonist Lola texts “K LIN” – a substitution for the French word “câlin” (“hugs”) – to her mother. In the next scene, mother and daughter are shown hugging; Lola’s message to her mother and their subsequent reconciliation emphasizes how “in France, the sentimental value of SMS stems mostly from the way users with play with the standard conventions of writing to maximize the meaningfulness of a given message for his intended interlocutor” (Rivière and Licoppe 2005). Note that the French SMS term “K LIN” is rendered untranslatable by the film’s English subtitles, which represent it as “().” For further discussion of the substation of “c” by “k” as a nonabbreviated spelling in French text messaging, see Anis (2007). “K LIN” would be, according to Anis (2007), an example of a “syllabogram or rebus writing”: “the use of a letter or a number to represent the phonetic sequence that constitutes its realization in spoken language.” For further information about the letter K as a replacement for QU and CA in French text messaging, see Appendix B (below).
Images © 2008 Pathé
Figure 2: In Jacques Audiard’s De Rouille et d’Os (2012), while spending time with her friends, Stéphanie surreptitiously texts opé’ (“operational”) to Ali, scheduling a rendez vous with him (shown in the next scene). By hiding the phone under the table and away from her friends while she texts Ali, Stéphanie negotiates the boundaires of the public and private spheres, recalling that according to David Crystal (2008, 147), in France, “texts are seen as a way of managing privacy in a public space, allowing communication while maintaining a silent presence.”
Images © 2012 Why Not Productions
Table of Abbreviations
The basic rule of texting is to express yourself with the fewest number of characters possible. This is done in three ways:
Using abbreviations, like TLM for Tout Le Monde
Using letters that are pronounced like the desired sounds, like OQP for occupé (O – CCU – PÉ)
Dropping silent letters, especially at the end of a word, like parl for parle
•1 replaces UN, EN, or IN
•2 replaces DE
•C replaces C’EST, S’EST, SAIS, etc.
•É replaces AI, AIS, and other spellings of similar sounds
•K can replace QU (e.g., koi) or CA (kdo)
•O replaces AU, EAU, AUX, etc.
•T replaces T’ES and other spellings of the same sound
Source: “French Texting – Les textos français,” http://french.about.com/library/writing/bl-texting.htm. (See also David Crystal, >Txting : The Gr8 Deb8 (Oxford University Press, 2008), pp. 207–211, for a list of French text abbreviations).
1 Remade by Azuelos as the 2012 English-language LOL, starring Miley Cyrus in the titular role and Demi Moore as her mother. The remake is set in Chicago.
2 Since space is at a premium when writing text messages (which are limited to 160 characters), the truncation/rewriting of words to fit in the space allotted for the text message – as well as to save the time it takes to write the message and the money charged per message – becomes necessary. See “French Texting Rules” in Appendix B: “The basic rule of [French] texting is to express yourself with the fewest number of characters possible.”
3 For example, “LOL” was nominated for “Word of the Year” by the Danish television program Boogie (Jessen 2009, 17).
4 See Cougnon and Beaufort (2009: 41); Anis (2007).
5 Although the film also, to a certain extent, addresses (or at least, briefly presents) heavier topics such as bullying, child abuse, children coping with the divorce of their parents, teenage drug use, and students protesting against teachers who mistreat them.
6 In a reversal of Marceau’s breakthrough role as rebellious adolescent protagonist Vic Beretton of the classic 1980s teenpic La Boum/The Party (Claude Pinoteau, 1980), in LOL (Laughing Out Loud)®, she plays the mother of a teenage daughter whom she attempts to shield from the temptations and pitfalls of growing up too fast.
7 Adults’ “hegemonic view of adolescents as immature, irresponsible, and deviant sets their language use up as problematic” (Eckert 2003: 116), ultimately “otherizing” them (Eckert 2003: 116).
8 Such as in the first classroom scene in the film, during which one of Lol’s friends is castigated by their teacher for not knowing the correct meaning of a French word and thus “provokes the ire of a language purist” (Anis 2007), recalling how “France has long been known for its […] preoccupations with linguistic prescriptivism and language purism” (Anis 2007).