I was having a conversation with a colleague recently when she made a comment that betrayed her private school education and her admirable passion for the finer points of literature. When confronted with what I refer to as “txt speak” or “IM language” she expressed utter contempt and frustration at this use of “incorrect English.” While I am inclined to agree with her that it is annoying and certainly gives off an impression of laziness it is far too prevalent to simply disregard. Is it not the function of language to ensure smooth communication between peers?
The judgemental and dismissive “incorrect English” comment forced me to ask myself; does correct English still exist or even, has it ever existed? I have never been all that familiar with the rules of grammar and spelling, so I was hardly the right person to answer this question, which was somewhat awkward as I was talking to myself at the time. In trying to answer this question I run the risk of sounding like a first year humanities student. If ever there was group of people on whom the possibilities of simple English have been wasted it is first year humanities students. A question asked in conversational innocence is often answered with a diatribe on the inequalities of modern life, usually littered with inappropriate adjectives.
With an ever increasing amount of the world’s communication taking place on What’s App, BBM, Google Chat, Facebook Chat, Twitter and the increasingly archaic SMS it is inevitable that the use of language will change to fit the delivery method and the audience, in much the same way that you shout slowly when you’re talking to your aging mother on a mobile phone with bad reception. Why would one want to make use of unnecessary letters when the majority of communication is typed quickly and on the move, especially if you are certain you will be understood without them? The fluid nature of the English language and its’ multiple variations is why it is so appealing and fun to play with.
The British Empire left several horrible stains on the world when the tide of colonialism finally subsided, cricket and Brussels Sprouts are but two of them, English, though, is not one. The bastard birth and orphaned upbringing of the language meant that it was ideally suited for exportation, even if the intentions of the colonisers were less than honourable. Despite its’ frustratingly non-sense rules of grammar and its’ inexplicable spelling it can be easily adopted and reared as one’s own.
So why then is it acceptable that the name of a search engine can become a verb in common usage but abhorrent that someone should type a message using a U instead of You. I don’t believe that more people are using the verb to Google in every day speech than there are people typing LOL yet one has become an accepted part of “correct English” and the other I considered juvenile at best. So is it simply that because the bookkeepers of the English language have deemed one acceptable and the other not that we must look down on those that contribute to the evolution of the language. I am not suggesting that every element of online language and offline slang should be entered into the dictionary only that users and speakers need to become more open to the changes that are occurring.
When somebody uses LOL in conversation I want to hug them, I love that the online and digital world influences our offline communication. The fundamental beauty of the internet is that it encourages information sharing and facilitates communication – The key to this is that everyone understands one another. Those that argue that the current trend in English usage is killing the language are not fighting for anything except their ability to communicate, they are scared of being left out of the conversation which is currently shaping the way we tell jokes, share stories and spread news.
It amazes me that professional copywriters can be so closed minded to changes and additions to the language when it is in fact the consumer that is instigating these changes, the more open a copywriter is to the language of mass communication the more open the consumer will be to your message.
Does this mean I believe that English grammar shouldn’t be taught or that standardised spelling has no place in today’s language usage? No of course not, it is only that I feel we cannot afford at this point in technological advancement to be snobbish about a language that has never really stopped changing.