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Twitter and Texting Are Not Destroying the English Language, Srsly Get Over It

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Man, I am really sick of hearing about how social media and texting are destroying the language and stuff. It raises so many questions for me. Questions like, have abbreviations ever caused the disintegration of a language? Did acronyms put Latin in a coma? And how exactly does a language fall apart, anyway? I mean, sure, they sometimes die out, but that’s not “destruction,” that’s a slow slipping into obsolescence. The idea that the English language is being ZOMG destroyed! gives me some fun imagery (sword-wielding verbs, crushed by the numbers-turned-letters 2 and 4), but it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. (Disclaimer: I don’t mean to erase those languages that have been systematically destroyed by genocide, like many Native American languages; however, that’s markedly different from the ridiculous notion that languages can be destroyed simply through change.)

I also take issue with the idea that confining one’s ideas to less than 200 characters is easy, because, no—it’s fucking hard to be concise. I would actually argue that effective tweeting and texting require a higher level of literacy, because you need to have a solid understanding of the language before you can abridge it. For example: I work once with a week with a delightful student who has several LDs. He’s very smart, but struggles with reading and writing, so we spend most of our sessions working on just getting his ideas down. He says he doesn’t use Facebook regularly because he has difficulty composing status updates that are clear and concise, and that he often finds Facebook and other social media sites intimidating for that reason. Which makes sense, because having to confine your thoughts to such a small space requires a pretty in-depth understanding of the language. Pithy witticisms are not easily composed, after all.

And, since you usually aren’t able to use italics or bold on Twitter or in texting, the format forces you to convey tone through the words themselves. Social media and texting steal some of the most common linguistic crutches and force you to pay more attention to what you’re writing. Which is actually kind of awesome.

And yes, sometimes people allow textspeak to spill over into other forms of communication, but that doesn’t signal The End of the English Language. Languages have different registers for a reason, and the people who write 4ever in e-mails to their bosses aren’t necessarily Language Ignorant, they just don’t understand how registers work, which is a social problem, not a language problem.

Basically, I am just sick of this freak-out over how the media ruinz the language and Twitter makes us stupid and what about the children?! Conflating illiteracy with textspeak is problematic for, um, a lot of reasons, not least because it suggests a pretty offensive misunderstanding of what illiteracy actually is. And if you’re really that concerned about the children not being able to write good, pin the blame where it really belongs—on the tragically low standards set for undergraduate education majors, on the terrible teaching salaries that drive competent people into other disciplines, on the lack of adequate funding for public education, etc.

‘Cause like, language changes and stuff. It grows  like creeping fucking jenny.

Also, here is a recipe for awesome frosting:

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 13 oz. jar Nutella

½ cup Marshmallow Fluff

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

Vanilla if you want it

Heavy cream to consistency

Mix like normal.

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About Paprika

Paprika Davis is a perpetually annoyed twenty-something college student waitress who would rather be a squirrel. The lack of commas in the previous sentence bothers her, but her laziness overrides her desire to improve the writing.

2 responses »

  1. Language, it evolved. the English of today isn’t the English of 200 or 400 years ago, and 1,000 years ago, English didn’t exist. but by all means, let’s freak out about lolspeak.

    and twitter is fucking hard! 140 characters is seriously restricting.

    Reply
  2. Caesar:
    “Et tu Brute?”

    Brutus:
    “Lol, U mad bro?”

    Reply

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