Your textspeak is bastard, just GOI

2012-06-30 08:23

George Orwell coined “newspeak” in his seminal work 1984 to signify a diminished ability to articulate complex ideas, and springing from that is a diminished capacity to think.

If our words are our thoughts voiced, what do we make of the new trend in language – perpetuated by social media and quick forms of communication – to contract our words or form misspelled hybrids?

I recently received an email from a friend that read: “I wnted 2 ask if ull b ready l8r, we need 2 b thr @ 9.”

I was flabbergasted he chose to write the message that way, knowing full well he’d typed it on a qwerty keyboard.

Dropping vowels and apostrophes isn’t going to facilitate understanding and be integral in developing new ways to express complex thoughts.

Reducing language hampers thought, which is ungood.

And it’s mostly just plain lazy.

Perhaps it sprung from people having to write text messages on number pads – but mobile phones are moving on, and so too should our disposition to sully our greatest mode of expression.

Next comes grunting because articulation requires too many syllables.

Nonetheless, slang has always been around – not that “textspeak” is necessarily slang – and has pushed language forward by finding ways to express complex ideas more concisely.

Shakespeare drew scorn from his contemporaries for his use of new words, but today we use up to, some critics believe, 10 000 words he added to our vocabulary and he’s lauded as the language’s foremost wordsmith.

But Shakespeare’s hybrids and neologisms were created in the pursuit of enriching expression.

Truncation and acronyms have their place, as evidenced in our newspapers, but they are used mainly because we have limited space and time to say things, and reporters usually understand what’s being said, even if sometimes subeditors have to decode those acronyms for readers.

But when you say the letters Oh Em Gee out loud, you strip language down to its most simple components.

Twenty years down the line will we be left with an alphabet of jargon, divorced from expression, devoid of meaning? Ef that.

The internet might be full of lolcatz and misspelled rants, but something interesting is happening with memes.

Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange might have been set in a terrifyingly violent and futuristic dystopia, but he was making a comment about the youth’s appropriation of new syntax to enable nuanced expression within a particular group.

The rise of the wordsmith pedant has itself become a meme, with the grammar nazis trolling Facebook and other social platforms.

Strong and clever connections between the visual and the written word are connecting swathes of like-minded people, with an emphasis on play and creative expression.

Though you’d hardly think it, with words like “Dafuq?!” or “Aaaarrrgghhh”, they connote particular ideas that both draw on and subvert other ideas while referencing them.

It’s all very . . . meta.

For those purists for whom language is sacrosanct, I feel your pain. Our language is one of our most treasured assets and to see it butchered by Biebers and bored housewives alike is a little disconcerting.

But seriously, we’re going to have to GOI (get over it) – the cultural mainstream is no longer an AFZ (acronym-free zone).

But remember, your beloved Bard was a butcher, too.

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