When you send a message by computer, is it a virtual message? Or is it a real one?
Virtual is coming to mean almost exclusively “by computer” — but its original definition is apparently, but not in fact.
Meanwhile, if you send a message by computer, it is truly a message… so I’m not at ease completely with the use of “virtual” there.
But is your message verbal? In a format like this, it would be. But that’s another word in flux. Many people are muddling up the original definition, made of words, with the meaning of oral, by mouth.
(Confused? Take these essays on words as your verbal medicine, but don’t take them orally. They’re only virtual medicine.)
A non-verbal message would be a gesture — such as a smile — or some typed version, such as the punctuated 🙂 or the emoji for a smile. The trouble that each of those two nearby examples is a virtual smile — not the real thing, the gesture that makes a special person’s face even more special.
Other non-verbal messages are numerical ones: 1, 2, 3. Even those are virtual representations of how many items one talks about.
In this case, I’m not being what’s called a “prescriptive” linguist — I’m not writing ahead about how the words should be used. I’m just noting some distinctions and observing how the words are beginning to collide. That’s being “descriptive.”
So some messages will be both verbal and virtual. Others will be neither. Let’s see whether we can keep both words — and both kinds of messages — around.
Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook. Stop by for verbal fun!
You haven’t subscribed yet? You can do so virtually anytime! Just click the button marked “Subscribe by e-mail” and follow the prompts. I never send spam, and you may unsubscribe anytime.