A T-shirt I should not buy nor wear

Here. If you’ve seen the episode, you know the rules. There’s no rule about slapping the Slap Bet Commissioner, but in the heat of the game it’s hard to rule out anything. If I wore this shirt, I’d be afraid I’d hit someone. Or I’d be afraid that someone would hit me. I’d live in fear of myself and others. Such would be the Slap Bet.

The Slap Bet Countdown clock is currently at 80 days, 14 hours and change. In the meantime, you should read Slate’s new piece on exclamation points in e-mails. A new e-mail style guide reverses a century of style and recommends their use. This policy has much in common with the Slap Bet.

As Shipley and Schwalbe would have it, the advent of electronic communication creates a greater need for pre-modern wonderment. In their view, the exclamation is no mere crutch for the lazy writer but an essential tonic against the grayness of electronic communication: “Because email is without affect, it has a dulling quality that almost necessitates kicking everything up a notch just to bring it to where it would normally be.” But what does it mean that e-mail is without affect? Is a blank piece of loose leaf somehow rich with the stuff?

In truth, the exclamation point is an antidote not to the intrinsic dullness of the medium (as Shipley and Schwalbe suggest) but to the vapid back-and-forths the medium facilitates. For centuries, the act of writing mandated a tremendous exertion of labor, so that scribes committed to the page only texts of supreme import. (Imagine a team of tonsured monks toiling for decades on an illuminated manuscript that read, “WTF … c u l8r?”) For centuries, that which was written had to deserve to be written. Today’s technology, however, allows us to transmit doodles of thought (e.g. “Running 10 mins late”) we never would have deemed worthy of print. It’s not that we know we aren’t writing well — and so tack on some exclamations!!! — it’s that we know what we’re saying doesn’t deserve to be written at all.

So, in a Fight Club sense, the Slap Bet is the new conflict equivalent of the updated exclamation point. Today’s defined world teaches us not to resolve simple disagreements through violence, so … 80 days to go. We punctuate dramatically and live into the next sentence, doomed to punctuate again and seek meaning.

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