“if u cn rd ths…”
Here’s a sort of generational litmus test: when you read that, what do you think of?
Many years ago, that phrase was the headline for a series of print ads promoting a correspondence course in shorthand. Sometimes you’d see the same ad on matchbooks. The idea was, of course, that you could earn a living if you learned how to efficiently transcribe the thoughts of others. The ad concluded with something like “… u cn gt a gd jb w/hi py.”
If that logic held true today, imagine all the people who would have gd jbs w/hi py. Of course, most of them would be teenagers. I’ll let you mull over the implications of that.
This is not an old man’s rant about texting. On the contrary, I think texting is nearly a perfect match between language and purpose. If all I want to do is tell you my wife that I’m trapped in a meeting, it makes perfect sense to text her — “trpd in mtg l8 fr dnr.” I don’t need to expound. I don’t need to provide context. I don’t need to write her a love letter, though I’m sure that would be more worthwhile than the meeting.
Educators have been debating for some time about where this development is heading and what, if anything, should be done to stop its spread, though I think it’s not beyond the imagination that at least some of that debate is carried out by tousled intellectuals hunched over BlackBerries, thumbs ablazing.
In the end, whether we care about it or not, there’s probably not much to be done. Our language is, for better or worse, malleable. Words and styles are introduced, adapted, and abandoned all the time. You’re to blame, as am I. At least you are if you’ve ever used any of these words. Still, I hate the thought, as yesterday’s post discussed, that our devaluation of language will continue. Because if it does, I’ll not only have to learn to accept text message abbreviations in formal documents, just as I’m having to accept all this gratuitous capitalization I see, I’ll have to learn — OMG!!!! — to use them as well.