Ten Things I Think About "THIS {^}"

1. I Think Digital Communication Is The Best Thing For A Stutterer

a. I used to stutter in elementary school. I went to speech therapy as a fifth grader. I still remember the "nurse" placing a popsicle stick upon my tongue and asking me to pronounce certain words. Teachers always reminded, "Slow down, Timmy. Slow down." Even now, if I get excited or passionate about something, I stutter.

But a writer never stutters. Language operates as his tool, his friend, his mystery, his "tree-house," his gliding city of imagination.

b. You can imagine, then, my surprise when I recently discovered a new form of communication; a terse form of delight; a former-stutterer's Holy Grail. 

c. People are now using one word emphatics. Of course I am not referring to curse words, or even "Whoa!" or "Dude!"  which would no doubt adhere in some way to the etymological tree. 

I don't know how else to describe them, so, let me try to explain by way of example.

If I posted something on my Facebook Page or Instagram feed that I thought was cooler than Brad Pitt in the movie Snatch, it would be acceptable and appropriate to simply write the word, "This." 

d. And it would be even more acceptable if I wrote it in all caps. 

e. Furthermore, it would be even more acceptable if I wrote it like this: THIS ^ 

Not bolded, of course, I just bolded it here to be, well, emphatic. 

f. The ^ is used to point up in case you, the poster, are writing below the picture. If you are writing above the photo you simply need to write: THIS. But the ^ is now also being used in comment threads and such. 

*Please see #6/d for more information on the proper use of ^ 

2. I Think Our Culture is So Iconic That Images Have Replaced Actual Words

a. THIS works in conjunction with the implied emotion derived from the image. 

b. I see the image, I infer the emotion, I get THIS {^}

*I will now use THIS {^} throughout the rest of this post to refer to this linguistic phenomenon. 

c. What happens, then, in the event that I misinterpret an image? What if my 1000 words inferred from the image are different from your 1000 words? 

Well, that does not matter because within the postmodern digital milieu as long as you, in essence, point to an object or an idea the contextual baggage you or I might carry is justification for any interpretation. We see this rather frequently in theological discussion, political discourse, and--of course--baking. 

d. Consider the aesthetic implications of images replacing words, icons over language. We may begin to think upside down. In such a case we may be forced to employ the interpretive skills of Cheshire Cats and March Hares--"Clean cup, clean cup, move down, move down, clean cup, move down, move down."  

Samuel Taylor Coleridge reminds us that words and language in the form of poetry constitute the preeminent artwork upon which all other art is based. If this were to be reversed might we head back to a world of caves and hieroglyphics? Is this not what the "selfie" prophetically tells us? 

3. I Think "THAT" Is Another Way of Saying, "Oh man, how cool. I wish I had taken a picture and posted it first." 

a. Thankfully, THIS {^} did not leave its demonstrative counterpart to fend for it's adjectival life. 

b. See #4 below for more parsing on this matter. 

4. I Think The THIS [^} Phenomenon Is A Female Thing, Only Because I Was Told By A Female Friend That It Is, Or Could Be

*I will now use "THIS {^} Phenomenon" to refer to the philosophy of thought that underpins this new form of communication. 

a. I inquired with several friends on the issue of THIS {^} and/or THAT {^} being a female phenomenon. One friend, let's call her Chelsea Batten, emailed me saying: 

Is it exclusive to females? It might be. Men use the internet as just another combat zone, only verbal, rather than physical, while women use it as an arena to establish desirability through identification. "THAT" is shorthand for "I can be represented by THAT."

                                        THIS ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ 

                                        THIS ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ 

b. But it's clearly not a female thing, because all sorts of gentleman do it as well. Don't they?

c. Upon further reflection it is clear that the THIS {^} Phenomenon has very little to do with gender and is, in fact, culturally equivalent to the Friendship Bracelet, which was gender neutral.

Friendship Bracelets just were. Everyone knew what they meant and everyone wanted one, wanted to make one, wanted to give one. 

d. Further, furthermore, though men quite routinely utilize the Internet to hurl one another into walls made of rhetoric and snark (the term "snark" can be used to identify an imaginary animal, see #2/d, or to throw a sharply critical comment at someone and seems to be the modus operandi of religious interaction on the world wide web), they do so only because Friendship Bracelets failed to offer the inclusivity needed by the male ego.  

Men, therefore, turned to simplistic forms of rhetoric, and the internet. It was not until the advent of the printing press and the book Wild At Heart that men realized they could and should settle their differences like civilized Norsemen, and simply beat one another with clubs, with the "punch to the throat" being the strike of choice. 

For more information on the Christianization of the Norsemen and the newer and more sophisticated forms of rhetoric and communication see the History Channels fascinating series Vikings. 

5. I Think In Order To Properly Employ THIS {^} or THAT {^} You Must Understand These Essentials

a. Timing

b. The aesthetic nuance of the emphatic

c. Reformed Theology

d. Kant's treatment of the disinterested interest

e. Johnny Utah 

f. Plato's true intent for writing Timaeus

g. Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

h. IF: Gathering

6. I Think You Can Also Employ the THIS {^} Phenomenon To Refer Not Just To Places or Inanimate Objects, But Also To People

a. When doing so, however, the THIS {^} transforms into THESE {^} or THESE TWO {or whatever appropriate number is required to accurately indicate how many people are in the photograph}.

b. It is inappropriate, however, to use more than one "case" of the THIS {^} Phenomenon declension.

For example, you would never post a picture of your sibling(s) engaging in a snowball battle and emphasize your excitement for the image by writing: THIS^ & THESE PEOPLE. 

c. Doing so clearly diminishes the desired emphasis and renders the comment socially invalid. 

d. Other derivatives of the THIS {^} and/or THAT {^} Phenomenon include, but are not limited to: 

- ^^^^ 

- ^ ^ ^ ^ {number and spacing determines emphatic intensity; see VENEER ad above for proper use}

- Oh. THIS ^ {See above for appropriate emphatic number quotient}

- So THIS ^ {the "So" renders the need for an emphatic number quotient moot}

e. Contrary to popular belief, BOOM {^} does not belong in the THIS {^} and/or THAT {^} Phenomenon Declension. BOOM {^} traces its etymology back to the late Romantic period and transmits the sentiment "je ne sais quoi," only in a more concise fashion. 

f. It should also be noted, when using words such as "Oh" or "So" in conjunction with THIS {^} or THAT {^} it is proper etiquette to use the period rather than the comma, thus rendering the attempted communication as: OH. MY. THIS ^

One word sentences, it can be argued, began this new emphatic phenomenon and one can see why. Can't one? 

7. I Think I Want A Black T-Shirt With This Printed In White On The Front: 


a. The only problem with such a T-Shirt would be the ^ referent. To what is it pointing? My neck? My face? My brain? 

b. Or is it simply emphasizing me in general?

8. I Think As Long As THIS {^} and/or THAT {^} Does Not Grow an -LY, making it THISLY {^} or THATLY {^} Then All Is Well

9. I Think Hemingway Would Love THIS ^

a. It's terse.

b. It's emphatic.

c. It's a healthy blend of rugged beauty and sass. 

10. THAT^

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Timothy Willard is the author of five books, including Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life and the forthcoming The Life-Giving Adventure of Chasing Beauty (Eerdmans, 2019). He has collaborated on over 20 books and has written, consulted and served as spiritual director for organizations such as Chick-fil-A, Catalyst, Q Ideas and Praxis Labs. When he’s not riding the trails in the Appalachian mountains you can find him by the fire with his three daughters and his wife making up stories about Tom the back yard badger. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.