An English major analyzes booty call messages

babe  • 

An English major analyzes booty call messages

Ah, the joys of young love

Last week, whilst annotating a poem by Alexander Pope for my 17th/18th century literature class, I received a puzzling, suggestive text message from a boy. However, to my great consternation, I was unable to switch off the Berkeley-trained English major part of my brain in order to respond to him.

What kind of rhetorical devices did he use? Is there any hidden meaning? I asked myself, scrolling through the stream of messages on my phone. I see some polysyndeton, which contributes to the ambiguity, I answered myself, noting his use of capitalization and his placement of line breaks. Suddenly, I realized my tendency to overcomplicate things had unlocked what just might be the best-kept cryptographic secret of the millennium! I could use my close-reading skills to pick apart every tiny detail of this boy’s message, down to the very letter! And thus, the booty call explication was born.

To really put this idea to the test, I needed to augment my own meager supply of flirty text messages. Luckily I have access to an entire sorority full of beautiful women, so I called on all one hundred and thirty-four of them to send me screenshots of any cryptic texts, DMs, Facebook messages, and Tinder pickup lines they had received over the years. The response was overwhelming, and below is a recounting of my favorite text message explications.

The “Go Fish”

IMG_1133

This charmer is casting out some fishing lines in the form of parallel structure and circumlocution (deliberate wordiness in an attempt to be vague), hoping the receiver will bite at one of them. The sender’s initial proposal that they “just chill” is further developed with the strategy of amplification: he tempers the aggressive “U can come over,” which places the action on the receiver, with the more benign “we can go eat,” so as to make the receiver feel that she has a choice, when in fact he has carefully constructed every option to end in sex… “or something.”

The Metronome

IMG_3632

As I learned in my poetry class, the golden rule is “minimum words, maximum impact,” and the sender of this string of “Hey’s” certainly fought about half that battle. Vertical structure is a type of poetic rhythm in which each line connects syntactically to the line before it, a strategy boringly replicated by this young man sending the same exact word over the course of ten months. The persistent, monosyllabic rhythm creates a bland and predictable pattern that reflects poorly on the sender’s conversational abilities, although it is worth noting that his determination is admirable.

The Poet-And-He-Knows-It

FullSizeRender-4

This young fellow approached his booty call from the clever/funny angle, firstly making use of several different kinds of rhyme, like the internal rhyme of “town” and “around,” and the end rhyme of “outta” and “haha.”  This further emphasizes the casual nature of the conversation, in an effort to make the uncomfortable proposal to “dick around” more tame. “Dick around” in itself is a double entendre — the expression is widely used in more casual contexts to imply wasting time or losing focus. However in this context, his choice to use the word “dick” has more sexual implications for the receiver of the text, especially considering that his parents’ absence means the two youngsters would be — gasp! — unsupervised.

The Knight in Shining Armor

FullSizeRender-3

This message is all about dramatic effect and suspense, achieved through consistent use of ellipses and circumlocution. By sending a smiley face and assuring the receiver that he is “honest,” he sets her up for quite the proclamation that he and his comrade want to “have some blowjob” later on. The initial phrase “We like you” is later modified to “We need you,” a subtle shift to reflect his angst and desperation. Much of the pathos (appeal to emotion) in this message is manifested in flattery and guilt tripping, although the only emotions he really succeeds in appealing to are horror and disgust.

The Jack of All Trades

FullSizeRender

This charismatic young man used some intense persuasive strategies in an effort to woo his recipient. By starting with a no-nonsense declaration of his attractiveness, followed by the paratactical, quick successive phrasing of all his other fantastic attributes, he effectively created a sort of linguistic jackhammer to really drive his point home. The rhetorical question, “What more do you want,” is a classic technique for pandering to an audience, in this case a cherry on top of some perfectly executed adjective-listing, or synathroesmus.

The Existentialist

FullSizeRender-1

Here we have a veritable cornucopia of poetic devices, all wrapped up into a cringeworthy, stream-of-consciousness composition. The initial free verse of the first two lines, “im currently / naked on my bed,” is contrasted by the rhythm of the third stanza written in trochaic tetrameter (verse written with four trochaic feet, or four repetitions of stressed/unstressed syllables). This progression from unmetered verse, to metered verse, and back again (“I’ll ttyl / Gnite”) is further emulated by the form of the poem — it bulges out in the middle and tapers off at the end, just like the sender’s ego.

A Note on Harassment

All jokes aside, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the unfortunate amount of douchebaggery that often occurs on the Internet. There is a fine line between flirty texts and harassment, and I was honestly very unsettled by how many of my friends have received creepy, persistent messages from strangers. If you have ever received something like this, keep in mind that just because someone contacted you, you do NOT owe them a reply, and feel free to block the person wherever necessary. Check out this article from The Atlantic for information about getting the law involved.

Is it just me?

Latest episode

An original series

An original series by

b