Because I get so many emails everyday but have so little time to read them, I have to prioritize which emails I open. To determine which emails are the most relevant, important, and/or interesting to me, I rely on the subject lines of the emails. If the subject of the email doesn’t immediately strike me as something that possibly holds some value for me, I will put off reading the email until I have more time on my hands.
However, recently the subject line of an email caught my eye, not because I felt the email it was prefacing was of significant importance to me, but because I thought it was an interesting sentence. It read:
“Break the Georgetown Bubble with a Course Downtown at the CALL in Fall 2019!”
This sentence, I’d argue, is not hard to understand. It is clearly conveying the message that you (the reader) should get out of Georgetown by taking a course in Downtown D.C. next semester.
I, however, would like to analyze key aspects of this sentence that help produce the overall meaning.
I want to first focus on the word “break.” On it’s own, “break” can mean several different things, both as a noun and as a verb. However, by placing the word directly in front of an object, and it being the only possible action word in the sentence, we know that it is acting as a verb in this case. Additionally, because this object is “the Georgetown Bubble,” rather than “the law” or “a record,” we know that it is acting as a verb meaning something along the lines of bursting the object, which in turn implies venturing freely outside.
But by putting “Georgetown Bubble” in relation with “break,” a word that signifies in a sense the end of the existence of said bubble, in an imperative sentence, it gives “the Georgetown Bubble” a more negative connotation in this context. This is, of course, despite the fact that a bubble can have both a positive connotation (as something that protects) and a negative connotation (as something that isolates).
Lastly, I want to draw attention to the word “CALL.” Although this word has the same spelling as the word that refers to the act of reaching out and speaking to another person and to the form of communication resulting from using a telephone, we know that it does not refer to either of these two things in this sentence. First, we know it is not acting as a verb here due to the fact that it is preceded by a noun marker (“the”). Furthermore, the fact that the entire word is capitalized, despite all the other words having at most one capitalized letter, signals to us that it is not referring to telephone calls. We thus unconsciously deduce that this word is an acronym that is being used in place of the longer/full version of the name of this thing.
While some may argue that doing brief analyses/reflections like these are somewhat useless since we all understand the meaning of the sentence without all this analysis, I do think that it is important to occasionally step back and think about what we always do tacitly: finding meaning in things.