SMS lingo is rendering English grammar obsolete and youngsters have a tendency to incorporate this ‘revised’ grammar into their academic papers, says ak ghosh
Sometime ago, The Guardian newspaper in the UK announced an SMS poetry contest. The response was overwhelming because as many as 7,500 poems written or typed on phones were received. The poem chosen for the most creative use of SMS shorthand in a poem read as follows:
14:/ a txt msg pom./his is r bunsn brnr blu,/his hair like fe filings/W/ac/dc going thru./I sit by him in kemistry,/it splits my @toms/wen he:- )s @ me.
Translated, it read, “14:/a text message poem/his eyes are Bunsen burner blue,/his hair like iron filings,/with AC/DC going through,/I sit by him in chemistry,/it splits my atoms/when he smiles at me.”
Many of the abbreviations used here are rapidly attaining the status of becoming accepted conventions familiar to most users of the “language”. It&’s becoming a method of communication that can be endlessly exploited and developed by individuals or small groups to create a kind of personal language that may remain opaque to the uninitiated. What the Internet has done is to create a space for language to run and slip over the boundaries of public and private language. A lot of experimentation is going on and a lot more is in store. The 12th edition of The Chambers Dictionary includes a smart entry of acronyms such as OMG and BFF, meaning “Oh my God” and “Best friends forever”, respectively. The same dictionary has expressions like “bromance” (friendship between men), “jeggings” (a cross between jeans and leggings), “defriend/unfriend” (contributed by Facebook culture), “upcycle”
(transform waste products into something
worthwhile) and “globesity’ (overeating).
Computer mediated communication has closed the gap between spoken and written English. The language in turn has ventured into encouraging informal conversation and a tolerance for diversity. Replacing the authority of language pundits, individualistic styles have resulted in Internet English. E-mail messages and abbreviations are meant to communicate something intimately within a short span of time. Under the cyber revolution&’s spell, monosyllabic and disyllabic words are being used more often. Long-lettered words are being avoided. New jargon and netiquette are increasing day by day. Thus the rise of new forms of structure, symbols and instructions has brought significant change to the realm of communication and interpersonal relationships.
Shortening words and interspersing letters are becoming common for a generation that communicates through text messages, tweets, online posts and status updates. Be it text messages or on social networking websites, most forms of communication have become electronic. Rising popularity of such expressions among the youth has eroded their basic language skills. It is feared that the day is not very far when students won’t be able to distinguish such gibberish from the English language. Since they have gotten into the habit of using it for any sort of writing, such as class notes or on their I-pads, the use of this shorthand language creeps into academic papers as well.
The purity of the language was found diluted also when the Concise Oxford Dictionary recently started introducing glib words in its compendium. It suffered further erosion when Collins Dictionary blurred distinctions between the written word and the computer- savvy generation&’s manners of expression. The distinction now bristles with such words as “hmm” and “heh”, “meh” (an expression of dissatisfaction), “muah” (noisy kiss) and “hey ho”. Distortions such as “soz” (short for sorry) can be compared with the SMS generation&’s use of “u” for “you” and “nite” for “night”.
The Times, London, trashed such expressions describing them as “grunts” and “sighs” that were so common in computerised networking. All this cannot be accepted as an offshoot of globalisation. The approach has most of the vices of an intellectual revolution. It overgeneralises valid but limited insights until they become virtually meaningless. It makes exaggerated claims for power and novelty of its doctrines and misrepresents the currents of thought it has replaced. It is further characterised by serious intellectual confusion.
Surprisingly, a leading Oxford University academic, Simon Horobin, recently urged spelling pedants to be a bit more relaxed about changing standards of English language. He even favoured the use of “thru” or “lite”, which, he claimed, might not be such a sin.
We must admit that love for distorted expressions is really a mark of laziness. In this unexpected turn of phrases, the real joy of expression is in its freshness and depth. Writers may corrupt their art, having been affected by the junkyard of copywriters or from linguistic aberrations of marketing whiz kids. English survives because it is a vibrant, living, dynamic language that constantly adds to its list of words. If the recent trend is allowed to continue, English will soon be unrecognisable.
The writer is associate professor in English,
Department of English, Gurudas College, Kolkata