E-mail signatures were one of the first topics addressed in this column when it began six years ago, when I took a practical view of the...
E-mail signatures were one of the first topics addressed in this column when it began six years ago, when I took a practical view of the nascent practice.
Signatures, I thought, were unnecessary and redundant because the recipient knows a message’s origin upon its arrival. Even so, ending a message without a name seems cold. So I’ve always typed in my first name or initials to make it a little less abrupt.
(Those philosophical sayings that people tack onto their messages are another story. These gems are precious the first time you get them, but severe annoyance sets in by the third go-round. This is often compounded by other irritants. One correspondent included a quote from singer “Rikki Lee Jones.” I had a choice: to correct her to say it was spelled “Rickie” or to stop writing entirely. I chose the latter.)
There are options, as shown in correspondence with my high-school friend Bobby Poe. Bobby, now a music-industry heavyweight in Oklahoma, and I started writing to each other in May after he came across my column online.
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After a few notes, I spotted something that made my blood run colder than usual.
He signed himself as Seymour Hiney.
Not one to back down from a challenge, I shot back a response and signed it Rufus Leaking. Pretty soon, we were shooting back names stolen from National Lampoon’s high-school yearbook, “Car Talk” and our own rapidly aging imaginations. I wrote a few notes with no purpose, just so I could try out a snarky name.
Bobby came up with Eva Destruction. I brought out Anita Bier. Back and forth we went with Ivana House, Helena Handbasket, Alison Wonderland and Brian Damage. There were the odd cultural references like Olga Yong-Doods — we once shared a ride to a Mott the Hoople show — or the mildly suggestive Ophelia Tatas.
So what’s the point, exactly? That a pair of guys over 50 still waste time acting like Bart Simpson? When Bob Dylan implored us to “stay forever young,” he surely didn’t have this in mind. He would have sung, “May you stay forever dumb.”
My little story is significant because I am not the only one acting like this. Throughout the e-universe there are millions of Charlies and Bobbys who are adding character and nuance to their daily exchanges. E-mail is another outlet for language, and it’s natural to see speech patterns develop.
And the most-remarkable aspect of this is we did it all without a single emoticon.
If you have questions or suggestions for Charles Bermant, you can contact him by e-mail at email@example.com. Type Inbox in the subject field.
More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.