If you’ve ever started at a text message from someone containing a bunch of “y’s” and “e’s” and tried piecing together the meaning behind the stretchable words, chances are your hard detective work will now feel vindicated.
Stretchable words like “heyyy” or “byeee” can carry certain meanings based on how they are used, especially since they have become part of the vernacular in the social media communicating age.
Even at work such occassions present stretchable words like an email from a coworker or your boss Slacking you to ask you for something. Whether it’s flirting or sarcasm, a new study from researchers at the University of Vermont found that these phrases aren’t done just out of boredom, but they actually have meaning behind them.
The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, took a deep dive into the science behind the use of stretched words and Twitter messages, where researchers said that phrases like “suuuuure” can be used in a sarcastic sense, while “yes” with multiple e’s and s’s can express excitement.
Dubbed the most compressive study to date on the usage of stretchable words in social media, the research was conducted by Tyler Gray, Christopher Danforth, and Peter Dodds from the University of Vermont.
The basis behind the research is social media is a relatively new platform where language can often be manipulated for multiple uses. The authors noted that stretch words were not part of written language and were rare to find in dictionaries, but if you’ve ever scrolled through Facebook or Instagram comments, you’re more often to see such grammar compared to more formal ways of communication.
Researchers said they scanned through nearly 10% of tweets produced from Sept. 2008 to Dec. 2016, which resulted in about 100 billion tweets and identified thousands of stretchable words.
Words like “ha” were searched for their stretchable cousins like “hahaha” or “haaahaha” and other phrases such as “awesome” and “goal,” which is often used in sports as a way of celebrating a big moment in a soccer match.
These words were measured on their balance and stretch; balance focused on the repetitiveness of a letter in a phrase; stretch referred to how long a certain word can be, well, stretched — like thissss.
“We were able to comprehensively collect and count stretched words like ‘gooooooaaaalll’ and ‘hahahaha’, and map them across the two dimensions of overall stretchiness and balance of stretch, while developing new tools that will also aid in their continued linguistic study, and in other areas, such as language processing, augmenting dictionaries, improving search engines, analyzing the construction of sequences, and more,” the researchers said in a statement.
It’s an interesting study that seems even more important now as workplace communication is strictly remote in a most areas due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Whether it’s through Slack or Google, our primary method of communication is digitally as workplaces remain closed.
So next time you see an email from your boss greeting you as “heeeeyyyy,” maybe it doesn’t mean exactly what you think it does.