OMG txting is gr8!
In a GOOD blog post (that happens to feature some really clever photographs, too) titled “Text-pocalypse Now?,” Mark Peters interviews linguist and author David Crystal about whether textese/textish/txt is ruining the English language. Here’s a portion of one of Crystal’s responses:
“People believe that a text message is “full” of abbreviations, as in the classic c u l8r. In fact, when you collect a corpus of messages and analyze them, the average number of words per message that are abbreviated is around 10 per cent. That means that most words are in standard spelling. This is especially true of messages between adults, now constituting about 80 per cent of all text messages. Organizations such as the stock exchange, colleges, broadcasting stations and political parties (not least, Barack Obama) now routinely text as a means of informing people about things. Some actually ban abbreviations, because of their possible unfamiliarity or ambiguity. Anyone who believes that texting is just for kids is totally out of date.
Hardly any of these abbreviations are new. Several are hundreds of years old. Those adults who object to initialisms such as bbl (’be back later’) forget that, once upon a time, they did the same sort of thing themselves – only without a cell phone. Remember SWALK on the back of an envelope? Or the rebus puzzles in magazines and Christmas annuals such as Y Y U R, Y Y U B…?
There was a hoax school essay produced in 2003 which was entirely written in texting abbreviations. Unfortunately, millions were taken in by it. Such things simply don’t happen. I work a lot with schools, and I often ask teachers to show me examples of textisms in schoolwork. They never can. I think I’ve been shown one example over the past two years, and that was a single instance of rushed writing. I ask the kids themselves would they ever use textisms in their writing. They look at me as if I’m nuts. “Why would you ever want to do that?” said one to me. “That would be stupid.” Quite so. You’d have to be pretty dumb to not see the difference between texting style and essay style. Or, putting this another way, teachers who let kids think the difference doesn’t matter wouldn’t be doing their job. And the same point applies to examinations. I’ve asked many examiners whether they have seen textisms in exam answers. The answer is always no. But ask joe public if kids use textisms in schoolwork and exams, and there is an almost universal yes. It’s extraordinary how these myths take hold of the public imagination.
A further myth is that texting is harming children’s literacy. Well of course, once you see the reality, this myth disappears. What is interesting is the recent research which is showing that the more kids text, the better their literacy scores. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Reading and writing improve with practice. Texting provides that practice.”
I’m not sure what to make of this, actually. I think I would have pessimistically assumed that the more one used textese, the more it would creep into non-phone writing, too. But I have observed that this is not the case with me. I completely reject the following textese: LOL, lolcat, and pwned. Yet, I have been known to use “u” instead of “you,” or “gr8″ instead of “great,” especially when texting using my phone (it IS faster, see). I also must admit to not only using, but actually enjoying, the emoticon. Pretty frequently. (That’s my robotic, this-is-no-joke face.) But has this caused me to end professional emails with “pls call me” or “thx?” No. I think people are smart enough to know how to adapt their speaking or writing to different contexts. Your thoughts?