13 June 2024

Symbols (2016)

Although this may seem absolutely trivial, I must elaborate on what some commonsensical symbols mean (I don’t “have to” but I “must“). I’ve realized that I’m not only picky about the definition of words, I am also incredibly particular with my use of symbols, and that’s why it often sounds like I am being confusing or rhetorical when I’m honestly being absolutely succinct and direct.
Everyone KNOWS what a comma is, or what a period does but let me get all philosophical for a second (as usual) and ask: do we really know what they mean? Or rather, are we completely sure that they mean the same thing to all of us? Before you argue or ignore me, let me explain.

Instead of having a philosophical long rant with myself.. (because let’s face it, you’re not [physically] here and you can stop reading any time you want)… I am simply going to explain the way I understand/use today’s symbols and writing styles. I might be “wrong” in the way I use some of them, but that’s precisely my point: to figure out if I am actually/objectively wrong about something, you first have to understand what I mean by it (remember this sentence, like, forever).

The fact that I am explaining something so obvious should hopefully show how essential it is that we’re on exactly the same page about the symbols that we will use to communicate. Think of it like this: if you and I didn’t use the same alphabet, nothing that I write will mean anything to you. Yes, I am basically saying “try reading Arabic or Georgian” but I am also going one step further.

My friends tell me that I write in very much the same way that I speak, but that’s not exactly correct because it’s actually backwards: I usually try to speak in the same way that I write, and I only got good at it over the past two years. That is why my friends “hear my voice” when they read this; when I write using italics they know what my face looks like and how my voice sounds or if I throw some parenthesis into the mix (which I’m aware that they make the sentence more complicated), then most of them realize that I’m signaling “I could go into a whole other rant about this so re-read my statement without these parentheses in it”.

I’m not saying I am ‘unique’ in doing this or that this is “my thing”, I’m actually saying we all do this, but I’m writing it down to make sure that we’re on the same page 😉


The most important symbols will be the different styles of parentheses and the different types of quotations because they mean different things and in a lot of cases there differences incredibly important. As I mentioned in another page, I hate when people say the silly phrase “if you can’t say it simply, then you don’t understand it well enough”. It’s a total excuse for “I’m too lazy to think or process anything that you’re actually saying”. Some topics are not so simple and you can’t just say “Equality means treating people equally” (no shit, Einstein).  If I were into such shallow conversation, I would simply say things like “life is cool, you know what I mean? No? Hmm, I guess I don’t get what I’m saying either” (ok, that was me being a bit of an ass because I really have come to hate that phrase being used on me). So, parenthesis are my way of ‘saying more than I need to’ juuuust to make sure that we are indeed on the same page. When you understand what I am saying without the parentheses or quotation, then we’re really on the same page. The best way to explain them will be to provide their definition and then write a sample using them. If you internalize how I am using them, you’ll eventually get used to reading them the way I intend (this is honestly not too hard).

() – internal thought – clarification/redefining/synonym
[] – internal thought – elaboration that could be left out but might be important
{} – internal thought – sidetopic/externalSet/Universal … also notice here that I am not saying “sidetopic/external set/Universal”. The space there might lead someone to think that “sidetopic/external” is one thought-combination while “set/Universal” is another, so in this case even a space made the difference)
– “verbatim” (directlyIntended/agree)
– ‘verbatim’ (questionable/disagree/sarcastic)
«» – internal monologue/voice/daemon – questioning self

Ok, so, how do I explain this [without saying too much more than I need to]? (I obviously already know the answer to this). Well, [I think] the best way [to show why the parentheses are necessary] will be if you read this text without the parentheses and then you re-read the text with the parentheses. I say this is the ‘best’ way because the [actual] best way would be if you read this with parenthesis, then without, but [many] people don’t really like to re-read something they ‘understood’ the first time. Moreover, regarding that whole “saying something simply”, if you ignore my brackets in the last sentence (“people don’t really like to re-read something”), there are two things that are likely to happen: A) people who want to agree with me will get what I mean regardless of what I overlook B) people who want to disagree will say “that’s false! I [know plenty of other people who] love to re-read things even if I [or we] understand them!”.  So if I leave the brackets out, some people might stop listening just because they want to argue, if I put them in, others say that I am talking/writing too much (there’s no ‘winning’ when people just want to argue). Leaving brackets out is also how people blame you and say “but you said __!” (So if I want to be careful about what I am saying, I have to go on massive rants within parentheses [or brackets] just in case some idiot wants to ‘quote me’ as saying something ‘people don’t like to re-read’ even though I [obviously] meant “[some] people”). Yes, I get what I said, but unless I go into massive rants to cover all my bases, then you are gonna have to give me “the benefit of the doubt” in some cases and I am gonna have to say more than I want/need to so that you are following what I am saying [correctly]. I hope you have noticed the difference between “quotes” and ‘quotes’. Again, I am not saying at all that I am ‘unique’ in the way that I use them, but I am saying to pay attention that [even in this last sentence] when I say ‘unique’, I am already [implicitly] disagreeing with the idea that I am “unique”.
The main use for these “{}” brackets will be if I am going into some seriously nerdy stuff {sets}, at which point they basically mean the same thing as “()” except they would require going into a whole other rant before coming back. Lastly, the internal monologue quotes will be used to quote an argument that someone might bring up («why would they want to argue though?») or precisely to “disagree with myself” in order to point towards a potential problem/inconsistency («does that mean you/we should ignore everything I said before the quotes?»… nah).

Writing Styles

bold emphasis (important later)

Think of this one as basically adding a word like sonderbodhi to our mutual dictionary or retrieving it from there with some serious/non-debatable emphasis. That brings me to…

italics emphasis (important now)

A friend told me that “you still write and talk the same way, but you use WAY too many italicized words” (24.12.2015). Well, yeah, but I’m sure he knows exactly what my obnoxious voice would sound like if I were speaking the words that are written. I don’t think I need to elaborate much on how I use italics because I think we all generally use them in the same way, but the key point to stress is the difference between italics and bold: if I write in italics I’m basically trying to make a point or steer discussion in a certain direction because it’s crucial that we are going the same direction, but when I say something is crucial, then I’m basically saying “if you want to argue THIS definition or talk about what THAT means, then hold on because we have a whole new can of worms to open up before we move forward with this discussion…”

TL;DR: there’s a fundamental subconscious difference between the two: bold means that something is important, italics gets us there (i.e. that’s how it becomes important). This will make more sense when I start saying things like “Is it more fair to do this or that? … ok, then that goes into the definition of what fair means.”
You will also notice that sometimes only part of a word will be written in italics/bold. That is once again to stress a specific difference between one word and another. Sometimes I might say that something is subconscious or unconscious, other times I will say that it is subconscious instead of unconscious and finally there will be cases when I emphasize that this happened subconsciously. The first is a mere distinction, the second is an important fork in the road and the last is a set path/interpretation of “sub” that we will have already established and agreed on (also remember this sentence, forever).


If nothing else, I think our entire generation can be remembered for changing the world in one minuscule way: WHEN I USE CAPS, THEN YOU REEEAALLY FUCKED UP. (Personally, I would make the case that this contribution ranks in the upper echelons of history and human capital, but that’s just me). Anyway, by now even our parents and grandparents are probably aware that TALKING LIKE THIS is downright aggressive and the equivalent of strolling an army into Crimea.

underline – link (external context)

To me, underlining something in writing means the same thing that it does online: hyperlink. Clicking on a hyperlink allows you to access an entire external database that is separate from the one you are currently on (duh). In natural language, it means exactly the same thing: switching contexts. In case you didn’t notice in the previous definition, I was making some serious puns that people might not get if they overlook other potential definitions is separate contexts. All jokes aside though, it is imperative to understand underlining/linking. Why? Because it makes a world of difference. When I make a pun (i.e. reference an external context) it might be clear that I am making a joke (for those who understand/agree with me) or it might go completely and harmlessly unnoticed. However, there is also potential for massive misunderstandings that can take the argument down the wrong path. Let’s make that point here with a controversial example…
In case you haven’t read around my blog, there’s one thing that I’ve learned very well from my dad: how to be a pussy. Thanks to his example, I might be one of the biggest pussies in the history of mankind (not to be confused with mankind). I’m going to assume that those two sentences were enough to prove my point, but if we need more clarification, then feel free to talk to me individually. It’s important to also notice how often hyperlinks/underlines occur in combination with bold letters. When I use them, underlines will be used with bold if it’s something important to remember (like a definition), and in regular typeface when they’re just a joke or another possible interpretation. For example, if you look at my previous sentence where I speak of “mankind”, you can see that the first definition/interpretation is meant as a joke whereas the second one is how I really understand the term.

emoticons – *moods*

Thousands of years after language was invented, the world finally agrees on symbols that mean the same thing to everyone… but do they really mean the same thing all the time? 😉 Anyway, not gonna explain this to a generation full of Emo Gangstas (i.e. emo G’s… “emojis”).

** – nonverbal/behavioral

Most of us are probably familiar with onomatopoeia, which is why you get what I meant when I said “WHAM! new word created…” The thing is, these are not the same in all languages and these can also be sources of miscommunication. For example, a dog says ruff in English but in Spanish the sound is guau, which English speakers would sound off as “wow”. That is why I will signal onomatopoeia with *asterisks*. This will allow me to be clear even if I play a bit more with the language like in the following [admittedly-terrible] joke:

Why are Mexican dogs more happy than American ones?
Because the American dog says everything is *rough* while the Mexican one is always in wonder saying *guau*

Yes. Terrible use of puns and only someone who is a native speaker of both languages might get the joke immediately (or laugh), but at least I am telling/signaling exactly how the joke works for anyone who wants to try to understand it. However, for the most part, the asterisks will be used to show a sensation happening in the real world like a *thud*, a *knock* or a *pop*

Punctuation Symbols

Now, we move on to the “obvious” and “trivial” symbols that everybody “knows”. A lot of these are very much common sense and we have used them for so long that we shoot past them subconsciously (but not unconsciously). But sometimes, in order to agree on something get things things done, it will be imperative that we are not only on the exact same page, but also on the exact same comma. Sometimes, these little symbols will play a critical role in order to make sure that we are constructing/imagining the exact same reality. For example, when telling a story, it might be the case that someone said “hello” or it might be the case that someone said “hello.”

Any grammar nazi could tell you/me that “the period goes inside the quotations because that’s just how it is.” Yes, thank you, I know, but that’s precisely why I’m arguing that we can’t have a specific rule all the time. Saying “hello.” is not the same thing as saying “hello”. (Notice the punctuation)

If you believe this is trivial or will have no effect on communication then please just trust me when I say that it’s not. In the first case you are signaling the abrupt end of the speaker’s thought while in the second one you are signaling the end of the writer’s thought. That’s how reading and writing works, we just don’t realize it. The prime example to show you the importance and the irrelevance of punctuation is the following:

Think of any time you got a message from from mom, dad, boss or significant other that only said “we need to talk”
Regardless of what sort of punctuation they used, your thoughts were almost certainly “O shit.” One could argue that this proves how irrelevant punctuation is but that’s exactly why we need to understand how important punctuation can be. If I tell you “we need to talk” then suddenly you will become the philosopher who always wants to know “why?” before you speak a single word that’s on your mind. I guess it’s only when shit hits the fan that people really get deep and start asking “why” to everything?…hmm, no wonder people assume that philosophers are so full of shit! (also remember these two metaphors forever). Anyway, if I say “we need to talk!” you can probably tell that there’s some emotion, whereas if I say “we need to talk…” then it would be a good guess that there is none. Furthermore, if I said “we need to talk?” you’d probably start laughing at such a contradiction and you’d want to respond with something like “uhh what?” or “lol do we?”. So the point here is that punctuation makes the world go round and if we can get on the same page about punctuation the maybe, just maybe, we can get on the same page; once we are on the same page, it will be much easier to disagree about specific words or read along together (another metaphor to remember). When writing, we need to understand and be mutually clear with punctuation in the same way that we need to be clear with our words and intentions when we say “we need to talk”.

In order to avoid making this an incredibly long article, I will simply write the summary/definition of these “common” symbols and I’ll eventually place a link with the longer elaboration when one is necessary. As with other “head” pages, this might be updated if I have to add a symbol.

. end of basic idea
, combination of basic ideas
; related but independent ideas, sentences, listed items
definition OR standard hyphenated word
~ rough definition
Upcoming : means it was referred/alluded to in prior sentence (same as you probably use it)
¿? – question/doubt ~ person is open/curious for feedback (Note that rhetorical questions may not have this and unsure statements/assumptions might include it in parenthesis)
¡! – exclamation/confidence/closed-mind

Traditional symbols (other than punctuation)

# raising a banner that others can rally around
“and” with the exception that normally it will mean/imply that there’s a duo rather than three or more (this impacts/clarifies the Oxford comma)
$, €, £ currency of a specific type. For reasons that will be clear later, it will be useful to include others instead of using one symbol to represent all currencies,
% percent


/ fusion/substitutability of ideas
= fusion/substitutability of ideas
(i.e. “/” – “=“)
(i.e. “becoming” “being”)

Comprehend / Understand
Comprehend = under + stand

Yes I saved the best for last. And if you thought I was gonna be able to explain the “most important symbols” just like that, boy we’re in for a long chat…