The Marriage of Words & Tech Could Be The Death of Our Language

Technology – I use it, I love it and cannot live without it.  You too right?  Words – love them, use them daily and cannot live without them.  These are two things that are essential and they go together.  However, how they pair and what we do with them is what can lead to the death of our language. 

Yesterday, I was typing an informal e-mail at work and had to stop myself from using text shorthand. Just now, I almost wrote txt instead of text, because that’s what I do when sending my SMS messages.  While texting, I could surely type out full words, like text or next, which become “txt” and ‘nxt.”  Was the subtraction of the “e” really going to save me that much time? Besides shorthanding our words within texts, instant messages and e-mails; we are simply negating the use of words for symbols.  Will words lose their power when we cannot express ourselves through their use and we just emote through emoticons? 

At times, I do understand that when you are dashing off a quick text or e-mail that tone and inflection can be interpreted as sad, angry, dry or sarcastic without the aid of colons and parentheses. I get that, but our language can be wonderful and I feel like the whole “use it or lose it” can apply when we are shortening, inventing and blending words.  I am a master texter and can do it quickly and succinctly.  But, I now make myself spell out four and five letter words (so long as I can fit it into one message), so that I don’t “lose” it. Regardless of what keypad I am using, it seems that my finger muscle memory has reset itself and adopted shorthand as its default setting. Luckily, I have been committed to this training and deprogramming. By the way, I almost wrote hv instead of have, which is an abbreviation fave or favorite of mine.  See right there is another example of shorthanding, a slang abbreviation (fave), which is quite useful for saving characters while electronically communicating and seasoning our language during conversations. Was it slang and impatience that birthed the technological/electronic cousin of abbreviation? Dunno 🙂

Some words have their charm, like “dunno” and maybe that’s because it mimics what I would sound like if you could hear me right now.  The whole emotional and dictional electronic representation of self as shown through text, IM and e-mail is another reason and cause for the abandonment of proper spelling.  (I’m so thankful that spelling bees are still around, even though some of those words are just foolish for some of us everyday folk to attempt).

I know that times have changed and it’s a good thing. I’m all for it, as I type all of this on my blackberry (the electronic companion that I adore). I have written whole posts, chapters and stories on my blackberry. For me, I think best and have my freshest (new & original, not dope) ideas while commuting or being stuck in places beyond my control. With electronic times, comes the lexicon that accompanies it I suppose.

So, how do people show off? How are you an especially witty wordsmith via text? You show off your ability to shorten words, send a long text with as few characters as possible and absolutely butcher the English language. If I was speaking to someone, I probably would have said “absotutely” and just now would have texted “prolly” – another e-tronic fave.

I am not judging but looking at the state of word affairs and things yet to come. Many have discussed this and will continue to discuss this as long as there is juice in lap tops, cell phones and any other electronic Hermes (that means messenger).  Besides, where does this leave us in the future?  You know the next thought process right? In our blood-in-the-water shark media society someone will always ask –  who do we blame for this?

Everyone. Evry1, Ev1. Don’t hang it on the poor, the hoodtastic (love, luv, lv that one), the trailer park posse, the illiterate, the uneducated, the lazy, the posers, the conformists or the wankstas. We’re all guilty and so are generations before us. This isn’t new. This has just reached an all new level, with exceptional speed, brought to you in every electronic method possible, including the media.

How far does word blending and the such go back? Pretty far, but I’ll just rewind two hundred plus years. There’s a term for what I’ve been discussing, which is portmanteau.  “Portmanteau word” is used to describe a linguistic blend, namely “a word formed by blending sounds from two or more distinct words and combining their meanings” (Thanks Wiki).  The usage of the word “portmanteau” in this sense first appeared in Lewis Carroll’s book Through the Looking-Glass (1871),[1].  Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice the coinage of the unusual words in Jabberwocky:[8]• “‘Slithy’ means ‘lithe and slimy’… “‘Mimsy’ is ‘flimsy and miserable’.”

While many of us swore that we created ginormous and fantabulous, which we used for years before it became mainstream, and felt original and creative – this portmanteau technique had been in play for years. I love that famous people have actually “coined” some of these portmanteau words. I coined “hoodtastic” while chatting with my husband, something I’d never heard, but later figured that many people out there could take any word and add “tastic” to the end and voila! You’re totally portmanteau-ing it – (wink wink).

So, where does this leave the English language? Possibly held hostage at a viewing of its own slow death by the hands of slang, word blending and apathy? Perhaps. With new additions to Webster’s forced by the hand of popular societal use, what’s going to happen next? I’m not sure what lies ahead, but I will be fighting for you English. I enjoy people who are not only articulate, but have an extensive vocabulary. I am not a fan of people who try too hard, aim to emphasize their “superiority” or are just pompous asses.

Growing up, my Dad made me grab a dictionary anytime I didn’t know what a word meant or how to spell it exactly. Well, I opened that book on numerous occasions and learned a plethora of words and their meanings. I liked knowing things and being able to express my feelings with clarity or being able to distinguish, to a specific extent, what was going on with me. Instead of emoticons of mad, happy, sad and wink; I could use irate, elated, morose or jovial in their places.  I am just a fan of words.  Let’s use them well people.

I have to close all of this with a little story, which just goes to show how all of these elements and the evolution of electronic verbiage has influenced other areas of people’s lives.

During a wedding reception, my husband and I were getting to know the people at our table.  There were a few teachers sitting with us and we were discussing names.  We covered the challenges of pronouncing students’ names, some of the most interesting names that they heard while teaching or that we had heard while enrolled in school.  One teacher has a particularly challenging name and submitted the name to us as she had seen it written.  Our task was to figure out how to properly pronounce the name.  So here is what we were given: LA-A.  Yes, that’s “L” “A” hyphen “A.”  Hmm.  I said, “La-ah”  (pronounced -Laa-ahh) somewhat jokingly.  Someone else said, “Leia” (pronounced – Lay-ahh).  But we were wrong.  LA-A is pronounced La-dash-aLA-DASH-A! Oh yes, that is something alright.

We’re beyond phonetics here people, now we’re shorthanding the pronunciation of four letters in a name with a symbol. I’m not a huge fan of the name “Ladasha” fully spelled out, but I can roll with that.  Every teacher and employer that meets this girl is going to have some questions or there’s going to be a dialogue about her name.  This girl is always going to go through some sort of explanation, which isn’t considerate.  What about scantron sheets and filling out forms that don’t have the hyphen or dash symbol as an option?  I could not have imagined this name and I suppose that the parents have accomplished their goal of being unique or maybe they are just redunkulous! Naming and the craziness that can go on there is a whole other topic, but LA-A has Apple, Pilot Inspector, Princess and Courvoisier beat. I guess we should be thankful that LA-A’S name is not pronounced “La-hyphen-a”.

Whatever the situation, the occasion, the instance – I just ask that we remember that there are an abundance of words available and waiting for you.  The pairing of electronics, technology and language can be a positive thing, but we have to be responsible and I think that common sense is a needed ingredient in the whole mix of word, meaning and language blending.  If we can do that, then there is hope that our language will endure. ♥

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