Posts Tagged ‘Texting’

Txting The gr8 db8

April 19, 2010

That’s the title of a book I’ve just read by the linguistics expert David Crystal. I am one of those pedants who dislikes using abbreviations in text messaging and fears that the “younger generation” will grow up not knowing how to spell or use grammar (I am aware that makes me sound like I am about 103 but there you go).  However David Crystal (who I respect greatly based on the lucidity of his previous books) says we shouldn’t get our knickers in a twist. 

He points out that abbreviating language has been going on for centuries, for the reason that it makes life easier: pm (post meridiem – after midday) first recorded in English in 1666, IOU in 1618, think of Mr, Sgt, AWOL, etc. A dictionary of abbreviations published in 1942 included ‘wd’ (would), ‘aftn’ (afternoon), ‘mtg’ (meeting) and so on. He also highlights studies showing that only a small proportion (between 6 and 20%) of texts contain abbreviations at all – it’s not a whole new language being created as much as a few dozen common words or phrases being adapted.

Teachers and examiners report that instances of pupils using text conventions within essays or exam papers are very few. In fact some studies have indicated that using texting abbreviations correlates to higher literacy in pre-teenage children, so it may actually encourage kids to understand language and be more playful with it.  Crystal points out: “Children could not be good at texting if they had not already developed considerable literacy awareness”.

So that’s a relief. And reminds me that nothing is new in this world.

Postscript Dec 2010: Saw this at the British Library exhibition ‘Evolving English’ – what we would recognise as text speak quoted in a book in 1867:

Not sure what some of those symbols mean but otherwise quite comprehensible. Looks like they were pronouncing ‘z’ as ‘zee’, or at least aware that’s what Americans do, given ‘B E Z’. Or maybe the author was American.

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