New LanguAge

I was reading the school paper, and perused a commentary on how students on campus use language in this age of information. As an English major, I approve.

The author, as I recall, blamed the breakdown of intelligent communication on the text messaging language as it creeps into the spoken.  Many people do. I’m not sure I don’t. In fact, I was surprised at myself when I first read the article, because at first I found myself rolling my eyes. I don’t appreciate the careless use of language. Using text speak in actual speech is always ridiculous–unless used satirically. Or maybe even just used humorously. But I must admit, sometimes I have at least thought “WTF” when watching/hearing something so utterly stupid that I can’t spare the mental time to think the whole phrase–and, hey, it’s not really cursing. And there are plenty of words invented by the internet* that I genuinely  appreciate. Sheeple. Kerfluffle. Angsting.

Perhaps it’s careless to use new words, when a careful enough revision of my own writing or thoughts might be able get the same feeling across using ‘traditional’ English. But then again, as the Facebook “Flair” button says “English: A language that lurks in dark alleys, beats up other languages, and rifles through their pockets for spare vocabulary,”** which I’m quite sure is stolen from someone who does not get nearly enough credit…but when you say something that awesome on the internet you tend to lose your fame for it very quickly.  Anyway, when English doesn’t have the perfect one, it tends to fill the vacuum with something new or borrowed (and sometimes blue, I’m sure). Thus I justify my internet speak.

So when I first read the article, I thought: well, really, why not use text speak in casual conversation? I’d greatly appreciate if you do so out of my hearing, but if your group understands the language, you may as well. So long as your formal communications–to someone outside of your social circle, or in written communications other than texts or possibly tweets. And if you have any acquaintances (or especially coworkers/bosses) as Facebook friends, don’t use text speak in status updates.  Nonetheless, I do feel  it has a place.

Then again, pretty much as soon as I found myself making the argument above, I realized–the problem is people don’t seem to be able to distinguish when it might be appropriate and when it definitely isn’t.

I remember, in high school, I read two ‘paragraphs,’ each written by a one person attending detention. Okay, so I couldn’t have been expecting much, but still, these would have been written in an academic context, not to mention that it was displayed on the whiteboard. Each, though, were equally terrible. You’d think they’d never learned how to write…which I suspect they did, as they had that ‘valley-girl’ handwriting, one even adorned with hearts.

And, despite the fact that I am now in my third senior semester at college, each of my professors, after the first essay assignment, still have to go over the most basic tenets of writing. For instance: spelling. When I first started college and heard this lecture, I was horrified. It was like, really people? this is college. The fact that it was a community college makes now difference. Now at least I’ve gotten used to it, though I am still saddened. While I’d like to think that people ought to be able to adjust their language based on the situation….apparently, no.

I don’t know how to solve this. I refuse to submit to writing text speak in my essays or talk to my mom that way–she doesn’t even use the computer, much less would have any idea what I’m talking about (although she is rather proficient at reading my mind when I’m particularly incoherent.)  You know what I think? I think that we should just disallow those people who can’t tell the difference to participate in any meaningful communication, because they aren’t capable of doing so anyway. First amendment be damned.

*Okay, so the internet itself didn’t actually develop the language, but it’s such a facilitator, it seems to make the spread rather faster and more creative. I likes it.

**Possibly James Nicholl, actually: “The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.”  Apparently he’s mostly an Internet personality, as opposed to being famous offline, which I find rather appropriate.

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2 thoughts on “New LanguAge

  1. I find I rather agree with you (not surprising, really, since we’ve taken many a class together). I remember talking to my cousin and finding out she had gotten an F on a recent essay (written in high school) for her over use of text-speek in it, and not understanding how it wasn’t at all appropriate for the situation!

    I agree. We’ve all learned to switch up our speech when talking to specific groups of people, such as more formal with strangers, no cussing with parents, more suck-upish when needing something, that I don’t know why people wouldn’t translate that to their writing. But maybe the people who don’t know appropriate writing techniques didn’t learn this skill either.

    I mean, I don’t even text-speek in my texts! But I’m old school, and I have a phone that automattically capitalizes “I” and adds in apostrophes where needed. But I tend to lower-case my writing over IMs, and think about what I’m saying because I recognize that I can be held accountable for my words at any time, and I better think about what I “say” when I write it.

    And I’m with you on the whole first-paper-aftermath debacle. Did you know there wasn’t a single test I took in my Physiology class last spring where 100% of the class managed to put their names and their test form on their bubble sheets? That’s why professors have to go over it over and over again, for those people too…lax…to do it right the first time.

    • “Lax” as a fine example of well-considered language…I wasn’t thinking nearly so kindly 😉 Maybe they don’t teach proper writing techniques anymore, for all I know. I mean, I didn’t learn the parts of a sentence well until college. I myself have gotten much more careless in IM, at least sometimes…actually, now that I think about it, even then it depends on who I’m talking to. And it’s always good to be accountable for your words, which is awholenother issue. Thanks!

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