Doctorates in online gobsmackery

My fascination in the whole matter of internet and online social relationships continues to build and is a consistent theme which runs through my blog.  It was warming and affirming to see that my thoughts on trust really struck a chord too.  And I loved the quip from my online mentor (newly appointed 😉 ) and guru  Marie of Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer which suggested that a PhD in internet friendships and their complexity.  What a dream that would be to follow.  Can you imagine the amazing field research that would involve?  Reading all the blogs from my new-found friends and then arranging to meet as many as I could.  A study proposal is forming far too easily in my mind!

But all of that is fantasy.  Well for now it is…..  But I was keen to revisit briefly the them of trust and reflect on the many comments which came in.  What I found particularly interesting is that although the topic is potentially controversial (or so I had thought),  there was clear consensus around our online community.  That does not mean that it is not a complex and sensitive topic but this did reaffirm for me the very essence which was in my original discussion.  That of the strength and overwhelming sincerity in our community. The post and discussion brought out fairly consistent points.

  • We would rather trust and enjoy the many wonderful friendships and connections that we gain, albeit running the risk of being taken in, than miss out on a new friendship.
  • However, trusting is not easy and having been betrayed in a variety of ways, it can take time to allow ourselves to trust, especially where there are not the signs and corroborating back up which we are used to in our face to face or traditional interactions.
  • We are not equipped for the complexities and dimensions of social relationships which the internet brings.  But we are learning quickly and developing those skills!
  • Where trust is broken or we are deceived, there is a whole swathe of online support and back up to help us through.
  • We would far rather be the one who is at risk of being deceived than the one who deceives for whatever reason or motivation is behind their actions

This I am sure will continue to fascinate me and warm the cockles of my heart as time wears on and our community and interactions develop.

However, I wanted to highlight another gem which came out of the comments.  In the midst of our discussion about trust, there was a comment from my respected bloggess friend which included the word “gobsmacked”.  One of my favourite expressions.  A few comments further down one very wise and wonderful bloggess noted that she was hearing this word twice in one day and never encountered it before.  Now there are (dare I say rather boring?) definitions in the various online dictionaries for gobsmacked, such as:

Gobsmacked: adjective (British informal)

Definition:  utterly astonished; astounded: 1980s: from gob + smack, with reference to being shocked by a blow to the mouth, or to clapping a hand to one’s mouth in astonishment

I prefer this World Wide Words definition:

Gobsmacked combines the northern English and Scottish slang term gob, mouth, with the verb smack. It suggests the speaker is utterly astonished or astounded. It’s much stronger than just being surprised; it’s used for something that leaves you speechless, or otherwise stops you dead in your tracks. It suggests that something is as surprising as being suddenly hit in the face.

The gecko definition which came to being in my response is consistent with the detail on the above reference.

I know it is used a lot in the UK (especially in the north east of England and in Scotland particularly) and is a colloquialism for being totally astounded or shocked, kind of stunned into silence. The beautifully eloquent term “gob” is a crass word for “mouth” – “shut yer gob” is a particularly delightful expression to request someone to be quiet! I think that “gobsmacked” conveys the sense of being so taken aback and shocked at something that it feels like a physical blow.

Interesting enough, I clearly remember a message from a friend on hearing my diagnosis, which, thanks to technology (deep bow), I could call up.  He said:

….I’m gobsmacked about what you’re going through. I can’t believe it. But Scottish lasses are more than resilient, so I know you’ll sort this out nae bother. What are the next steps?

To which I replied:

sorry to smack your gob!! i know – it was totally unexpected, but i am in the best of places. Looks like we will be in Bangkok for a wee while for treatment, but early pathology is fairly optimistic…

So indeed there is a documented relationship between gobsmacking and cancer!  And my interpretation of gobsmacked as a bonus!
However, on top of my love of language and expression there is something which I love even more.  And that is prompted by my commenter referring to her lack of familiarity with “gobsmacked” by saying  “shows how little I know”.  Now she is one of the wisest and most eloquent bloggesses  I have been fortunate to connect with.  And she is enormously unassuming in the most humbling way. No, this is not about how little we know, but rather, how much there is still to learn no matter who we re or where we are in our lives and in the world.  And that was in the remainder of my comment reply.
Working in the field that I do, I have a kind of “mantra” which I try to live by as well as relentlessly reminding those around me – “you learn something new every day”. I love the fact that today’s learning is about “gobsmacked”!
We do learn something new every day, as long as we are open to it.  And we never know who our “teacher” might be – I often learn things from my 6 year old neighbour.  I am especially delighted to be part of a discussion in which an octogenarian embraces something new and looks for ways to adopt this.  How refreshing and humbling.
I continue to be gobsmacked at the great deal ofnew learning, as well as heartwarming and inspiring activity continually within this online circle, and a great deal of learning.  Now I think I will head off to look into doctorate opportunities at the University of the InterWeb 😉

9 thoughts on “Doctorates in online gobsmackery

  1. And here we are, P, a perfect example of the interconnectedness of the web! I am chatting with you on Twitter while reading this post, and laughing about how I, an American of part Celtic ancestry, launched a discussion of my use of the word ‘gobsmacked.’ To Marie, our dear mutual cybersister, I must say that it was my mother’s Irish-influenced upbringing that formed early on a love of wonderfully odd coloquial words like ‘lollygag,’ ‘dillydally,’ and many others, with which she liberally sprinkled her conversation, particularly when she was severely irked by my behavior. And then there is some Scottish ancestry thrown in as well, so perhaps I have a genetic attraction to picking up on words like ‘gobsmacked.’

    I love the idea of a doctorate on this subject. All joking aside, I’ve twice now agreed to be a research subject for survey studies done by doctoral students about how blogging and the internet played a role in my journey with cancer. So, you see? There’s a great deal of interest in this. And I’m sure that scholarly specialization will follow. Learning gives us another good reason to get up every day.


    • Oh K, so many lovely levels of connectedness! some part of this new, interconnected world, and some which are inherited and shared treasures such as the language. There are some truly glorious expressions – I love great old words such as “dunderheid”,(implying someone is not so intelligent) “bowfing” (not smelling pleasant) and “scunnered” (tired or fed up) to name but a few.

      I would be fascinated to hear more of the research you were interviewed for.

  2. For me, connecting with our online breast cancer community reminds me of how Alice must have felt when she fell down the rabbit hole. She must have been gobsmacked when she realized that a unique universe loved and flourished just beneath the surface of a world she took for granted. Like Alice, we will always have a foot in both worlds.


    • What a fascinating thought – the wonderland and parallel universe which is post cancer land. And oh my how it feels like falling down a rabbit hole when you hear those life changing words….

  3. P–Now I’m fascinated by your Scottish friend’s use of the words “nae bother” in the phrase: “so I know you’ll sort this out nae bother.” A lover of language myself, I like to add to my literary repertoire new turns of phrases and foreign expressions. Thanks for giving us a good lesson on “gobsmacked.” Now I’ll never forget the word. In fact, I’m going to use it in regular conversation in my small neck of the woods and see what transpires. Keep writing! xxoo

    • Yes, isn’t it a great phrase (often spelt as it is pronounced – nae borra). I love the fact that “gobsmacked” has entered your vocabulary too and really enoyed seeing it in your post.

    • Thanks so much Marie – you know how much this fascinates me. I should be back in the UK in a few days actually (will message you) and keen to see if there would be a chance to meet up offline…… we have heaps to talk about for sure, never mind doctoratey talk 😉

  4. Pingback: In praise of my fish pickling flair | Feisty Blue Gecko – a tail of the unexpected

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