Notes

I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted

Evolving English

4

If reading your Facebook page doesn’t send you into a murderous rage then obviously you don’t have any issues with the English language. Such is the eclectic range of friends in my feed, I frequently find myself laughing at some of the witty and hilariously stupid updates. One former school friend of mine …wishes this abses would go awa no am nae gan 2 the dentist i hate them al burst it myself’.

Facebook inevitably provided this young Scotsman with counselling and advised him ‘Dina mean to scare u but my fiance’s cousin died from one, burst and all the poison went into his blood and into his brain. Better get it sorted!’ And while that does sound extremely painful, what I found interesting was not his abscesses but the near impenetrable use of the Scots dialect.

On wanting to discover more about phonetics, I decided to go along to the Evolving English exhibition at the British Library.  The concept behind the exhibition is the historical and social origins of the English language from 5th century runes to 21st century ‘txt-speak’.

As a matter of principle I have always written text messages in proper English. Such is my aversion to typing without vowels; I regularly had to endure severe financial penalties throughout the pay as you go era. With a flush new phone contract, I can now compose long messages without having to scratch a voucher card every other day.

For nearly a decade now I have dismissed txt speak with a barely concealed contempt. Some of my prejudices were further exposed in an innocuous conversation with a womanising guy who insisted ‘all girls use LOL’ when they are texting. By doing so he unknowingly confirmed that getting a ‘LOL’ out of a girl is an essential part of the modern courting process.

Lolling along I have considered LOL to be feminine ever since. In stark contrast any self-respecting man using this abbreviation is beyond contempt in my opinion. But why I am being so open misogynistic by inferring only women can get away with such frivolous language? Modern text abbreviations are extremely open to interpretation as this heart warming tweet reveals below.

Considering that nearly two billion people speak varying forms of English, I began to question my own relationship with the language.  Despite having a distinctive regional accent, I have always composed my words according to how I think rather than how I speak.

And while I love reading dialect in stories and poetry, I continue to mock ordinary people who express themselves in txt talk. Following the finest traditions of prejudice, I have always dismissed txt-shorthand as a form of illiteracy and those who use it to be ignorant and lazy.

Although this is to disregard the evolutionary nature of English and texting is just another example of the malleability of the language. Constantly changing and evolving from the 5th century, English has never remained static and while txt speak is subject to serious derision by conservative academics. It isn’t that much different than some of the ludricious office jargon I have to endure on a daily basis, where words such as ‘hyper local’, ‘granularity’ and ‘consumer facing brands’ are considered gospel.

Some of the most cultured and intelligent people I know are prone to a good LOL now and again. Indeed I have a new found affection for people who Laugh Out Loud but for reasons unknown to me I still think men who use it are idiots.

Alas despite being enlightened by the British Library, I refuse to use LOL on grounds of principle. Instead I have an alternative expression of mirth in the form of ‘haha’, which I regularly use when reading about ex-school colleague’s gum problems on Facebook.

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4 thoughts on “Evolving English

  1. Matilda

    Oh dear, I do relate to your strong feelings against text speak. I loathe LOLing and text speak, irrespective of gender. All LOLsters look like idiots. I always get a vision of people laughing like maniacs in front of their keyboards when I see the L-word used. Most annoying of all, a lot of people seem to use it when they find something merely mildly amusing or expressing happiness but are they laughing out loud, really, really? I never, ever do text speak (except the odd smiley) but have many friends who do – including one who is a teacher. Her e-mails and texts make me despair of the future …

    1. Daniel Agnew Post author

      I know a Religious Studies teacher who sends completely illegible text messages in a broad Glasgwegian dialect. The blurring of phonetics with text speak is interesting though, especially after learning more about the origins of texting. Some highly intelligent people use it merely to save time. But I personally prefer my prose to be comprehensible to outsiders. Sometimes I have mixed feelings about LOL because its difficult to hate when people you really like, who use it on a regular basis. Regarding its message of happiness, it’s minimalist in the extreme.

      1. Matilda

        I think texting in dialect speak is quite sweet. Have only ever seen Scottish text speak tho, would be fun to see more regional examples. I don’t mind abbreviations in texts per se, but pure text talk is not pretty and makes the writer look like an unintelligent teenager. And yes, I do try to turn a blind eye to people I know and like LOLing …

  2. simplesplendidthings

    Brilliant post! I accept text speak when texting but it moritified me when I saw my younger brother using it on Facebook messages and emails. It scares me to think that the younger generation at some point won’t be able to spell properly nor stretch their brains to find new and suitable adjectives to express themselves as they will all settle for LOLs and such.

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