Et Vous, @Brute?

Great article, courtesy of the BBC News online magazine, called Tu and Twitter. It is the end for  ‘Vous’ In French? highlights the social and political interplay of technology and language. Other languages such as Italian and Spanish are mentioned too.

Of course, Twitter isn’t going to finish off French language formality or any  social hierarchies implied, though some of the sentiments expressed in the article bring into sharp relief just how important matters of linguistic accuracy and orthodoxy can be in some cultures, and how changes can be interpreted. Nothing unusual about the French, or should I say some French people, in that regard.

Worth reading. It is of course, another good example of language usage adapting over time and circumstance, and changes reflecting context of use. Textspeak didn’t kill the English language or our ability to communicate fluidly across media or threaten interpersonal relations any more than the infinitesimally obtuse language of Finnegan’s Wake did. Twitter isn’t going to kill off vous or bring the Fifth Republic crashing down either.

It would be more than nice, however, if Twitter technology could figure out what format of “you” the receiver of tweets preferred in relation to the sender and alerted the sender to that choice. After that, the deliberate use of  tu or vous might be worth an argument over.

Interestingly, I hear that German is also subject to pressure from Twitter. As an aside, I noticed that not all new interactions adopt an informal tone. The German Windows Phone style guide from Microsoft, for example, recommends the use of Sie over du. Context of use again.

What do you think? Use the comments and let me know!

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.

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