Did you hear that? What is that deafening peel of thunder, that terrible groan of suffering, that indistinguishable cacophony of cries? That’s the death of the English language as we know it.
Spend more than five minutes with anyone between the ages of 10-18 and you will see their thumbs blazing across the touchpad of whatever high tech electronic device they use to communicate with others of their ilk. This by itself is not a bad thing. I’m all for communication. The problem I have is with the content of said messages.
“OMG!!! Lol!! I’m afk for a sec Ill brb”
Pause for a second and allow that to resonate in the deep strata of your brain. I think there’s a noun in there somewhere. A verb? Well maybe not. In fact as I write this piece the spell checker has just had its second seizure.
I don’t claim to be Shakespeare here but that sentence above is typical of many conversations going on right now on computers and phones around our great big world. With each passing generation I fear that our language will become more and more infiltrated by this genre of dialogue.
So, what’s going on here? Are these words just to long to type on tiny keyboards or is their something more insidious afoot? I think the answer lies somewhere between tiny keyboards and outright laziness. Our society has made it so convenient for us to do practically anything. I mean we have drive thru liquor stores now. We have a remote for practically everything in our home. Even my beloved books are being made more palatable through the use of compact disks and now these reading devices. Couple that with a nonchalant attitude and you have cyber speak, leetspeak, or Internet slang.
I begin to wonder what some of the older classics might sound like with this particular brand of communications.
Gone with the Wind: “FMD I don’t gad.”
Catch 22: “ Just bc your paranoid don’t mean they aren’t ay”
Hamlet: “Alas, poor Yorick! Ikhm.”
Maybe I’m being a tad unfair to this generation. Maybe I have just become one of those old people who refer to kids as whippersnappers. I don’t know but what I do know is this. Teens are going to continue to lol, brb, and afk themselves silly but we have to instill in them at an early age the need to write whole complete sentences and paragraphs. If left to their own desires the books of tomorrow will be much shorter because it will be filled with abbreviations.
The responsibility of this falls to us as parents, teachers, and fellow communicators. We have to start now by encouraging them to write, by not taking the easy shortcuts when writing ourselves, by setting an example and expecting them to live up to it. We need to bring back the hand-written letters and stop relying solely on e-mail for our communications. Just because the devices are getting smaller doesn’t mean our words have to. It starts with us and maybe we can find a happy medium of cyberspeak and real English.
As A.A. Milne said: “You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”