30 10 / 2012
Textese, slanguage, txt-speak, chatspeak, txt, txtspk, txtk, txto, text lingo, SMSish, txtslang and txt talk – a new language, but is it ruining our culture?
‘Texters are vandals who are destroying our language. They are pillaging our punctuation, savaging our sentences, raping our vocabulary and they must be stopped.’ This said by John Humphrys, a Daily Mail journalist, who believes that the instant messaging culture of today is ruining the English language. But is he right?
He goes on to say that us ‘texters’ who are ruining the English language, are the cause of some 16,000 words in the English Dictionary being removed of their hyphen, as a result of a failure to press the hyphen key whilst texting. If it’s good enough for the English dictionary, Mr Humphrys, what makes it not good enough for you?
It is the opinion of the University College of London professor John Sutherland also, who says that Textese is ‘bleak, bald shorthand which masks dyslexia, poor spelling and mental laziness. It is penmanship for illiterates.’
As an older student who received A*’s and B’s in English language and literature during my GCSE and A-level years, I have to say I was in agreement with this view. That was, until I freed my mind and did my research. All you have to do is walk amongst the high street and outside schools and think ‘yes, kids today’ seem ill-educated and frustratingly use slander in the streets, but just because they choose to use such language, doesn‟t mean they think it‟s right.
I know and understand that I should pronounce my t’s and my ing’s, but this doesn‟t mean that in casual conversation, I won‟t cheat and cut of the ends. In the thrill of an exciting story, some of these proper pronunciations escape me. Is it because I am ill-educated? Am I to blame for the ‘deterioration of our language;? Simply, the answer is no. I do it because it’s quicker. I know not to do it in an interview or to someone hard of hearing, but that is because I have been educated to know the proper scenarios in which language should be used.
The same goes for Textese. It was born of the generation of pagers and SMS messaging. When space was small and you paid per page you sent, shorthand began to develop, in which conversations were shortened to fit. Naturally, this stuck, and thus a new language was born.Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? Hardly the punctuality raping, language destroying image that our Johns had given us it is? In fact, abbreviations of this sort had been around for hundreds of years before texting. David Crystal, a highly honoured Linguist, says that elements of language, including pictograms, acronyms, contractions and others can be seen in language throughout time, from the ancient Egyptians to 20th Century broadcasting. William Shakespeare freely used novel syntax and several thousand of his own made up words, yet we honour him and learn from him, when in actuality, he is no different from us ‘texters’.
‘Wts ina nme? Tht wich we call a rose by ne uva nme wud smell as sweet?’
The generation that mocks Textese and us youngsters that have ‘developed’ it forget that, in their school years, long before any of us were twinkles in our parents eyes, they were using the very same language to learn. In countless Christmas annuals, they solved puzzles like; YY U R YY U B I C U R YY 4 ME, a riddle which the generation sussed out meant ‘Too Wise You Are, Too Wise You Be, I See You Are Too Wise for Me.’
‘You Are’ has been shortened to ‘U R’!? How dare they! They are ruining our language and our education!! Oh, wait, wrong generation… So you see John #1 and #2, if abbreviations and Textese really are the downfall of our language, who is really to blame?
But luckily for you guys, there’s hope for us yet.
The worry that Textese is filtering into our education system and that the students of today are writing everything shorthand and don’t know how to communicate properly anymore is simply a myth. David Crystal, who was keen to understand whether these accusations were correct, went on the hunt for the evidence. He asked a huge variety of teachers if the work and exams that they mark from students was victim to this Textese crime. The answer was no. Nowhere in essays or classwork, has a student ever used text lingo. Maybe once or twice in quick note taking (emphasis being on the ‘quick’ – what’s that thing professional journalists have been using for decades? Oh yea, shorthand!) but students have been taught when and where to use proper language. The key is in education. If children aren’t being taught that abbreviations don’t belong in professional work, then there’s a problem in our teaching, not our language. But the fact is that students are using their language correctly. They save Textese for their instant messages and SMS’s, be it for quickness, saving money or just because they can. Tis the miracle of free will. At some point, the language restrictions must stop.
People like Daily Mail writer John Humphrys should be happy for Textese. It has been proven that young people texting is actually improving their education in language rules, literacy scores and general reading and writing. Practice makes perfect right? Well trust me, us youngsters these days are getting plenty of opportunities to do that, every single day. And it isn‟t even us youngsters who are the main contributors to the SMS world. The majority of customers are adults. You can even see this culture in our business market. ‘Phones4U’ an ‘B4ld betty’ being just two of many businesses who have chosen to use this lingo.
So, it seems that there is more evidence to prove that Textese is just an innocent language that has developed out of convenience, and has even been around for hundreds of years, than there is to prove its harming effects on education. There will always be the generation grasping their dictionaries tightly and frowning every time another hyphen gets cut (16,001?) but in reality, there is no proof that this new language is destroying our beloved English language. So embrace it and appreciate it, because it is actually improving education for the many, and saving us all that extra 10p of credit when our text spills out into 2 pages.
by Jenna Amiee Brightwell