Sunday, March 09, 2003

Is txt mightier than the word?

Romeo and Juliet's balcony scene

Is text messaging infecting or liberating the English language? Judge for yourself, as we rewrite classic texts in txt.
When a 13-year-old Scottish girl handed in an essay written in text message shorthand, she explained to her flabbergasted teacher that it was easier than standard English.
She wrote: "My smmr hols wr CWOT. B4, we used 2go2 NY 2C my bro, his GF & thr 3 :- kids FTF. ILNY, it's a gr8 plc." (In translation: "My summer holidays were a complete waste of time. Before, we used to go to New York to see my brother, his girlfriend and their three screaming kids face to face. I love New York. It's a great place.")
The girl's teacher - who asked not to be named - was not impressed, saying: "I could not believe what I was seeing. The page was riddled with hieroglyphics, many of which I simply could not translate."
Text messaging, e-mail and computer spell-checks have long been blamed for declining standards of spelling and grammar. A publisher of a new dictionary warned last Friday of a "degree of crisis" in university students' written English.
"pRting is sch swEt srw"
Despite the advent of predictive text, which completes words as you write them, and even the launch of next generation mobile networks, it seems that the simple texting skills people have learnt in the last three or four years will be around for a while yet.
But could the anonymous Scottish schoolgirl be right? Could txt take over more of our expression because addicts simply find it easier than normal writing? And could this mean the liberation of our use of language?
Already, text message shortcuts have been adopted by those keen to get their point across in as little space as possible, be it advertising copy, poetry or Biblical passages.
Even Shakespeare - famously inconsistent in his own spelling - might succumb. Is it a great travesty to render his more famous passages in text message shorthand?

2b or not 2b thats ?

a @(---`---`--- by any otha name wd sml swEt

rm rm w4Ru rm?

1nc mr un2 T brech dr frnds 1nc mr

The Lord's Prayer, for instance, could be thought of as somewhat stuffy even in its updated version, so the satirical Christian online magazine Ship of Fools ran a competition to rewrite it in 160 characters or less - the length of a mobile phone text message.

The winner, Matthew Campbell of York University, condensed it thus: "dad@hvn, ur spshl. we want wot u want &urh2b like hvn. giv us food & 4giv r sins lyk we 4giv uvaz. don't test us! save us! bcos we kno ur boss, ur tuf & ur cool 4 eva! ok?"

Is this any different from the Icelandic, or rather old norse texts where skin was so scarce that the words were shortened in order to write as much as possible on each parchment..? Is this really a threat? I admit that as a teacher I´m getting "u", "lol", "ru" and "brb" in my essays ...? Comments anyone ;-) Jón Jóns..?


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