Friday, July 17, 2009

SMS or English as a Foreign Language

text translator I have to admit to being slightly miffed about the contraction butchering of words in the English language. No, no I'm not talking about the shortened version of cannot (can't) or let us (let's) or even how did/how would (how'd). I mean those words, letters and symbols that have taken over in the name of instant communication or should I say IM and SMS. Sure I love emoticons and cute abbreviations and I'd like to think that I'm as hip and trendy as any other CEOmum, SAHM or WAHM, but when this landed in my email inbox today

"I tried to get ur email addy......i want to ask u if u could send me..... ...i will b offline"
I wondered whether something was wrong with me. This was from an adult who was asking me to forward some information. Although I have never written an email in said format I was quick on the draw having deciphered the lingo in a nanosecond, well maybe a second after my brief pause. No I didn't reply in kind I jut figured out what she meant. Of course it wasn't difficult just a bit unusual considering the source.

My knowledge of text speak isn't really that bad. I'm quite familiar with <3, and WTF. Last week with my son's help I improved adding SMH, SMDH and MEH to my vocabulary. To be fair some of them are acronyms to which we have grown accustomed and some are plain intuitive. For example, I'm sure you can figure out:

  • OMGYG2BK
  • SNAFU
  • DIY
  • HWK
  • CYA
  • C%L
  • ?4U
  • L8
  • CU
But some are downright foreign.

While I'm appreciative of the convenience, speed and money saving quality of these newfangled abbreviations and while I tend to be perspicacious particularly when it comes to the spoken word I was simply flummoxed by some of these chat words. I mean WTH (note absence of expletive) do these mean:
  • 459
  • 831
  • OTTOMH
  • NSISR
  • NBFAB
  • GIRL (it spells girl doesn't it?)
  • WH5
  • 9
I mean seriously, if the goal is speed then it justifies the shortcut, but if the reader takes forever to decipher the message then what is the point? Is communication taking place? Is it time to rise up in defense of the English language or to take out the funeral attire? Is this the beginning of the end?

You see, young people (under 30, 25 or 20?) are so comfortable with these informal expressions that they are now incorporating them at school. Yes, teachers report seeing them in essays and other written assignments and despite their objections, the trend is growing. Like me, teachers may have to resort to code crackers like online dictionaries and translators. Indeed in England and Scotland they have gone as far as to allow text language in exams much to the horror of some parents and the teachers too.

Yet the youngsters are quick remind of the dynamic nature of language, of the fact that in-house, spork, skort, pop-up and wannabe are of relatively recent vintage and this just expands not eclipses English as we know it. My teenage son doesn't believe that the English language is in jeopardy at all arguing that the text language comprises abbreviations and acronyms for which there will always be a place and it's a mechanism that levels the playing field helping all kids to communicate with their peers. There is some truth to that. How many of us hear the word scuba diving and recall the meaning of SCUBA? Further texting is not limited to English, there are SMS versions in German, Spanish and more, even Hebrew.

Yet I'm still not sure as I can't shake the feeling that this culture of shorthand writing seems to have taken over. Doesn't it just encourage laziness? No says my son. Think of the computer, the automobile and the dishwasher. You are capable of writing, walking and washing but you use the alternative when its appropriate. Kids can still write, spell and think but texting is just quicker and easier.

Well I have no statistics and it is somewhat off-putting that I'm already deemed old school but I haven't gotten into the habit of texting, I still enjoy a beautiful turn of phrase and a card or letter via snail mail, well that is just a pleasure.

9 comments:

Jaque Macpherson said...

that is so true! "gr8" post!

Sue said...

I have never texted, and I don't plan on starting anytime soon. Lol is about as far as I go with it - lol

Thanks for stopping by my blog.

WhiteSockGirl said...

Great post,.. or must I say gr8 post?

Text/SMS language is a total foreign language to me! I don't get it at all.

My nephew and niece get their kicks by sending me SMS in that language because I would usually reply with a 'HUH?!!!'

I am struggling to write in my native language, Afrikaans, and English (my second language) as it is,.. I really can't be bother to learn this strange foreign language.

Like you mentioned in your post, adults are also into it. My friends know by now that if they are too lazy to send me a SMS, they might as well call because I won't bother reading that strange messages. Might take them two seconds to type it but it will take me two hours to decode it...

Thanks for the visit and the comment on my blog!

Dreamgirl said...

So true!
When my cousin sends me a messages I'm lucky if I can understand half of it.
Just stopping by from SITS to wish you a wonderful Sunday and a sunny week!

Take care!

Greetings from a Norwegian in Spain

Cathy13 said...

"The times they are a changing". I don't like it htough!

Chocolateer said...

So....where's the translation for the cryptic list? I can't even get half of the text-speak from your easy list! Granted, English does evolve, and words and phrases work themselves into and out of our common vocabulary. However, I'm not sure I buy the argument that kids can still write in standard, academic English. I think the ability to write clearly and professionally is an important, but fading, skill.

Does JM2C = just my 2 cents?

Dee said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dee said...

Wow thanks to all for the feedback. I'm glad to know I'm not alone.

Chocolateer quite rightly asked for the translation so here goes.

Easy List
OMGYG2BK: Oh my God, you got to be kidding
SNAFU:Situation normal all f**ked up
DIY:Do it yourself
HWK:Homework
CYA: See you
C%L: Cool
?4U: Question for you
L8: Late
CU: See you

Hard List
459: I love you [check you key pad and you will see it corresponds to the letters ILY
831: I love you [8 letters, 3 words, 1 meaning
OTTOMH: Off the top of my head
NSISR:Not sure if spelled right
NBFAB: Not bad for a beginner
GIRL: Guy if real life
WH5: Who, what, when, where, why
9:Parent is watching.

Who came up with this stuff?

Anonymous said...

Is this hieroglyphics or what ? I am still communicating via e-mails and writing to my friends and family in standard English . I love to read and see the well written English language. Thats me