Wednesday, April 29, 2009

SMS Is Good 4 U

Charles A. Ray is a grey gentleman from Texas, with the thoughtful look of a country magistrate and aspirations to being a littérateur. He has written a number of articles on history, culture and leadership, and recently completed a book on leadership, Things I Learned From My Grandmother About Leadership and Life. One would think the guy would be a bit conservative in his approach to the mother tongue, but that is not what the facts bear. His posting on the developments (or rather devolutions) of our English language cracked me up this evening.

"I don’t think the new methods of communication will lead to a substantial decline in the written form of discourse. I see them, instead, as just another evolution in the way we humans communicate with each other. People who decry them as tools of the devil that will eventually cause us to be unable to speak or write in complete sentences, with full words, are akin to Chicken Little crying the “sky is falling, the sky is falling” (...) texting and the other methods of getting the message across “instanter” will not turn us into a race of beings who can only communicate in groups of incoherent letters – LOL hr pls, I nd th hmr (Lots of laughs here please, I need the humor). Our species has shown itself to be remarkably adaptable, and we have gone through a number of phases in communication since cave men grunted at each other and did drawings on cave walls. And, written English did survive the typewriter. Surprised you with that one? Yes, the first typewriter in this country, patented in 1868, had the keys arranged in alphabetical order. When typists went fast, the keys tended to tangle up and stick. The fix was what we know as the QWERTY keyboard. It was designed, dear reader, to force typists to slow down. Didn’t work for very long either. Good typists can achieve speeds of up to 100 or more words per minute. The written language has also evolved over time, so who’s to say that LOL and XOX won’t be commonly used phrases in our future (...) The language ain’t dead yet, and I think it is probably gonna be around for a good long while to come. People will always find a way to get their message across. Writers are among the most notorious for this. Will written language change? No doubt. It has continued to do so for centuries. But, if I might paraphrase the venerable writer Mark Twain, “the rumors of the demise of writing are somewhat premature. "

Bless you, Mr. Ray. Just as I can't read Old English, I can't understand my nieces when they email me. I actually purchased a specialized dictionary to understand the SMS (short, meaningless s**t) that I am being sent. Language will change, it has already done so from the time of Frazer, West, and even Russel. And that is why I read Bertie, and not de Batton - Bertie has substance, Alain is speaking to people whose linguistic poverty you are applauding. As for us hoping to produce an SMSing Bard - 4get it.

Oh, before I forget. Someone on that blog said he was surprised to find out that most people who went online went there to read. I have a rather different sort of statistics, based on search engine reports on keyword use and numbers of hits per site. Most people go online to shop, play games, download stuff and watch porn. So maybe they are reading as part of this - but what??

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