In what seems like only a few short years, the bastardization of the English language has reached a zenith. With internet and cell phones easily accessible to almost everyone in America, our communication is becoming ever easier, but ever more impersonal and confounding. Erupting from chat programs and text messages, these simple and often incomprehensible shortened versions of the words of our native tongue have spilled onto store signs, advertisements, and even everyday speech.
Acronyms are not a new phenomenon. Shortened messages such as P.S., ASAP, FYI and E.G. have been in use in businesses and correspondence for decades. In the past twenty years alone however, the techie generation has come up with not only new acronyms, but an entire language of words and phrases of which most of us that were taught good English in grammar school simply cannot make sense. Far from simplifying long phrases or Latin words that nearly nobody has the ability to pronounce, the driving force for "Netspeak" seems to be purely laziness.
For example, one may type U instead of you, R instead of are, 2 instead of to, or B instead of be. How superfluous does the proper spelling of our language seem in light of this new transcribing brilliance! Imagine all the hours we have wasted on typing three letters where one would suffice!
Even those who frequently practice this abomination of prose sometimes cannot keep up with the new trends that pop up. Being a frequent computer user myself, I thought that I was savvy with the usual chat acronyms: LOL, BRB, BBIAB, OMG, and their ilk. I rarely use them myself, but I am generally capable of deciphering them. It seems every day I sign on now, there is a new jumble of capital letters to decode! How am I supposed to know that FTW stands for for the win rather than its more well-known, essentially destructive translation? Furthermore, is that phrase even used enough to warrant an abbreviation?
The disease of Netspeak is not limited to cell phone text messaging and online chatting, however; more recently, certain bands have even adapted it. Whether the fault of the fans or the musicians, music columns have been flooded with incongruous alphabets: AFI, BSB, MCR, AX7. If one respects a band enough to purchase their albums and buy tickets to their performances, should one not also have the decency to say or type out their full name?
It doesn't stop with music, either. Businesses are using this atrocity of a language for advertisement. Perhaps this is an attempt by advertising executives to make their products appeal to a younger, faster-moving and less literate generation. Signs ask for their customers to 'drive thru,' shoe stores have BoGo sales. Before we know it, everything may become condensed into this Netspeak. It is not coincidence that the emerging language is titled something so similar to Orwellian Newspeak, and it is 'doubleplusungood' that the trend has progressed this far. Welcome insurgents; 1984 has finally arrived.
The problem does not lie in teenagers simplifying words so that their thumbs do not go numb from text messaging on their cell phones; they practice it so often that their thumbs are likely to lose all feeling even without the shortened words. The problem, I believe, is that the consumer market is latching onto the practice and taking it that much farther. The problem is that Netspeak is becoming a trend and one which may soon be perpetuated even in the workplace and official, academic writings. The problem is an entire generation growing up, taking their classes by computer, and having a vernacular that consists of thousands of simplified words or '13375p34k*' terms, but not understanding a word like vernacular. The problem, in short, is a complete disregard for proper English.
It is impossible, at least for this decade, to compose a letter, essay, or other document and make oneself understood and seem respectable without a firm grasp on the language and all of its grammatical nuances. If one is protesting against an election and speaking out about their views in an attempt to sway others to their way of thinking, it will be very difficult for readers to take the words seriously when you throw in IMHO rather than 'in my humble opinion', not to mention it may be counterproductive as the phrase itself sounds incredibly pretentious. So IMHO, the only solution to this problem is for those of us who recognize the problem facing our beloved language to speak out about it, to correct others' errors when we see them, and at times even be vicious in our defense of clear, rational spelling, grammar, and punctuation usage. Otherwise, the difference between then and than may become a moot point; people may soon simply deign to use thn and have done with it. We must take pride in our ability to communicate clearly. We must speak out clearly and intelligibly, and take back the English language from the sloth of text messaging!
*13375p34k = elite-speak, a code long used by gamers that includes numbers and symbols in place of letters which is possibly the precursor to Netspeak.
- Title: PLZ H37P 54V3 3NG1I5H
- Artist: Nihill
- Description: A commentary written for my English 102 class on the horrible mistreatment of the English language that has become popular with text messaging and the overuse of online shorthand. I'd love to hear what my fellow Gaians think of this popular textual abuse.
- Date: 02/06/2009
- Tags: netspeak english languages