The Joy of Text

Lol This Post is Totes Cray Cray, JK

It’s been said that texting is killing the English language, and that this new and improved generation of smartphone-carrying, screen-swiping, touch-typing kids is hastening the downfall of the written word.

It’s very easy to sit back and blame technological advances for the many shortcomings of modern man, but when looked at from a historical point of view, texting is just another form of interpersonal communication. In that context, it is very much an experiment in language, a work in progress, and should not be viewed as anything but that. One shouldn’t apply the standards of grammar, spelling, and punctuation (normally reserved for written language) to texting, simply because it happens to be a written form of communication.

People do not speak in the same way that they write. They never have. Sentence structure of verbal communication is completely different than that of proper written language, and that is not a bad thing at all. Human beings have always found strange new ways to express themselves. It’s what we do. Texting is simply a part of that ongoing search for self-expression, and it is my humble and honest opinion that any progress in the realm self-expression should be encouraged.

Whether we’re conscious of it or not, all languages are constantly going through metamorphosis, as part of their evolution process. Evolution is nature’s way of adapting to its surroundings and environment, and language is no exception. It starts with accents and dialects, progresses through street talk and slang, and ends up as proper words in the Oxford dictionary (e.g. “D’Oh!” credited to Homer Simpson, 1993)

The future of the English language is in the palm of your childrens hands.

The future of the English language is in the palm of your childrens hands.

Unlike novels, magazines, or textbooks – text messages are just that: messages, meant to be read and discarded. Sure, some people hoard their texts and re-read them to death (we’ve all done it), but in truth, texting is first and foremost a form of speaking, a lot more than it is a form of writing. The fact that this communication happens to take the shape of written words, rather than spoken ones, is somewhat negligible. A back and forth text exchange between two friends reads a lot more like an everyday conversation, rather than an excerpt of dialogue from a book or screenplay, and so it should.

What exactly are those stuffy literature professors and grammar enthusiasts afraid of, anyway? Consider the following language progression:

Art thou okay? (Middle/Early Modern English)
later became
Are you okay? (Modern English)
which, in turn, became
r u ok? (Texted English)

Was there an uproar when “are you” began replacing “art thou” in the widespread form of written and spoken English? Perhaps, but not likely. It was simply the natural flow of the language. Some communities, like the Quakers, still cling onto parts of the old speech and spelling. Use of the pronouns “thee”, “thou”, etc., has managed to stay with us mainly through poetry and religion. Things change. It’s the classic struggle of preservation versus progress.

With the ever-growing proliferation of forums, blogs, and social media, these changes which English is going through are spread far and wide. Those bemoaning the sad state in which the English language is put should perhaps make an attempt to see this as a new and exciting time. After all, we have the unique opportunity to witness the English language taking its next evolutionary step, before our very eyes.

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