Wots dat?

I’ve recently found myself back in touch with a large number of old schoolfriends thanks to the modern marvel that is Facebook.

It’s great, apart from the fact that most of them are now married and have children, which is decidedly disturbing when your last memory of someone is as a slightly irresponsible and giggly 18-year-old. They sort of freeze in your mind and stay exactly as they were then. Then, nearly a decade later, you find each other on Facebook and realise that they’ve become adults. You see the wedding photos, and the pictures of the kids. You see comments from other friends about motherhood and work and making the packed lunches. It’s awfully disconcerting, because in your head you’re still bunking off RE class with one of them to drink coffee in the prefects’ room, and passing silly notes to another one in English Lit., and thinking another one is just soooooooo cool because she has her own car and can drive a group of you to Portrush for the day.

Anyway, despite the weirdness of it all, it’s lovely to be in contact with my old friends again. Which is why I thought it might be fun to take it a step further and see if there are any past-pupil sort of groups for my primary school, now that I’ve become reacquainted with my Cambridge House buddies. Got to be even more bizarre to find out someone’s married, or a teacher, or a parent, or all three, when your last memory of them is as a gangly 11-year-old, right?

Unfortunately, things went rapidly downhill at this point, and I found myself on my primary school’s Bebo page. It was apparently for past and present pupils to join, which in theory is a nice idea. In practice, it turned out to be run by a pupil of the more “present” variety, and it is this that has plunged me into head-in-hands despair.

so tel me, if u cm 2 dis pg o mine ere n i woz wrtin lik dis wud u kep redin or wud u giv up n gt outta ere?

That “sentence” just took me five full minutes to compose, as it is in a language in which I am not (and shall never be) fluent – I had to keep referring to online resources such as the aforementioned Bebo page. It is, however, the way the majority of people (ppl) aged about 25 and under seem to speak these (dez) days, and I do not understand why it has been permitted to (2) take over in such a horrifyingly widespread way. I’m completely serious about this (dis). This is not English, kids (kidz).

I have given up pretending that I am not turning into my parents or grandparents or whatever, and so I’m just going to come out and say this: in my day, people were expected to use proper spelling and punctuation in their written English, and to follow a set of rules known as grammar. If you stuck an apostrophe in the wrong place, or structured a sentence in an awkward way, or made a spelling mistake, your errors would be circled in red, usually with a scribbled explanation if it wasn’t obvious. And what’s more, you’d be expected to correct it!

Apparently teachers aren’t allowed to use red pens any more. Pointing out mistakes is so last century – think of the poor child’s self esteem! This attitude makes me want to knock heads together and do some shouting. How is a child supposed to know if they’re getting something wrong? What is the point of letting them make the same mistake over and over again, for the sake of being encouraging and not denting their confidence? It’s perfectly easy to say “This is a great essay, with some very good points, but you need to take more care with your sentence structure – see examples”. This was the sort of comment our teachers made, and as a result, the majority of us know basic English. The same cannot be said of the kids coming behind us. They get mobile phones at the age of six, and as a result think that txtspk is actual, proper, written English. Argh! Arrrrrrrghhhh!

Txtspk is a great invention in the context of mobile text messages – where, of course, you have a limited number of letters per message, and so obviously want to write in some form of shorthand in order to save space (and therefore money). I get it, right? I ‘dig’ it, even. I use it myself when necessary. But a large percentage of children and teens now seem to think that it’s acceptable to write like this in any context! It horrifies and appalls me. Spelling mistakes and clumsy grammar are one thing (well, two things, actually), but consistently wrtin lik dis n tinkin its gr8 english isa nuder! Never mind the fact that I was one of the last few to make it the whole way through school without ever owning a mobile or sending a text message, and so am now seeing people only a few years younger than me (who spent their schooldays communicating in txtspk) becoming qualified as teachers.

I cannot convey how distressed I am when I see these people – people who are responsible for the education of the kidz, people whose job it is to set an example and maintain some level of literacy amongst the youth of today – exhanging Facebook comments along the lines of lol yea i love you’re photos!!! and your lookin gr8 wots da craic?!?!?. It physically hurts me. These are teachers. Teachers!

I have much more to say on this subject. I could rant for hours about the txtspk “language” itself, and how for something that is meant to be convenient and quick, it’s incredibly difficult to understand endless lines of vowelless “words”, many of which turn out to be absolutely nothing like the original. I could also wax lyrical about how it’s causing kids to have no understanding of how words are supposed to sound, since double letters seem to vanish (see how “another” becomes “a nuder”, which is probably pronounced “a nudder” – and shouldn’t be). I could ask numerous pained questions about the pointless nature of some translations, such as changing “OK” to “kk” (This one makes precisely zero sense to me).

However, I’m far too wound up now, so it’ll hav 2 w8. lololol! (That’s another one – if “lol” is “laughing out loud”, why in the name of sanity would you emphasise your laughter by saying “laughing out loud out loud out loud”?!)

Yes, I am old. I accept it. Then again, this sort of thing would have upset me just as much when I was 10 years old, so maybe it’s got nothing to do with my age, and more to do with the fact that I’m a bit of a geek…

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8 thoughts on “Wots dat?

  1. timserverius says:

    I’m also frustrated with how some people write both online and off. I don’t consider myself a language purist and I don’t mind grammatical errors or the occassional mispelling, but I still think people should make an effort at producing something close to proper English.

    My family frequently communicates using text messages. I am glad to write my teenage daughter will use full sentences and capitalize appropriately without any goading from me. I mentioned to her how I appreciated her effort. She told me that she refuses to use the lazy version and that she hates it when she has to decypher messages she gets from her friends.

    I mentioned my daughter because you seemed to believe that your age or geekiness has something do with how you feel. She is not a geek and has been writing full sentences since we had America Online as our IP.

  2. Oi, enough of the 25 and under. I’m 25 and I never write like that. My (18 year old) brother does though and it takes me yeeeears to figure out what he’s trying to tell me!

  3. What’s even more fun, is trying to decipher what the young’uns are saying. Trust me, I live with two darling daughters who confound me to no end with their mumbling. Of course it could be that due to the fact I sleep beside their father, who snores like a freight train full of lumberjacks, each with a chain saw on full tilt, I could be losing my hearing. ;)

  4. HBWolf says:

    Txtspeak is annoying, but language is conatantly evolving, it needs to, otherwise we’d still be grunting incomprehensively at each other, wait a minute…

    Cheers,
    Doug

  5. McBouncy says:

    LOL. As it is capitilised it means I am laughing loudly out loud.
    I have found that the best way to decipher these messages is to read them out loud. It helps.
    KK is another one I hate but can actually understand why they use it. Think of the energy you can save by just typing the same key twice as opposed to moving your finger a few mm to the left (from the number 6 to the number 5). My children now actually say KK instead of ok, we even reply in like manner but with a sarcastic tone. You will understand this as you have spent time in our house.
    Anyhow, nice to read a Hayley blog which mentions Portrush and Cambridge house again. Do you remember the day you took The Boy, Boder and Chriser to Benone and they brought you home traumatised? Was Kate there too and lots of screaming happened?
    That doesnt even fit in with your blog but I just remembered it. HELLO HAYLEY! Listen tomorrow and I will play Pray…
    If you ask…..

  6. Tony – http://www.bbc.co.uk/kent/voices2005/txt_spk.shtml :)
    Timserverius – Your comment cheered and encouraged me. Be immensely proud of your daughter! I’ll confess that I do occasionally use txspk abbreviations, but only in text messages where I’m going to run out of space and don’t want it to charge me for two messages! And even then, it’s nothing that would be hard to decipher. But still… I salute your daughter!
    bevchen – 24 and under, then. :)
    Maureen – The Sister used to speak like that, although she will deny it. I think speaking audibly must be uncool when you’re a teenager, but I’m not sure, as I wasn’t aware of even half the things that were uncool when I was one.
    HBWolf – Meh! :)
    McBouncy – Ah, but I had it pointed out to me the other day that typing ‘kk’ actually takes longer, because when you use the same key twice in a row you have to wait for the cursor to move on, but if you change to a different key the cursor will move on by itself as soon as you hit the new key! So ‘kk’ takes longer than ‘OK’ and therefore makes even *less* than the zero amount of sense that I first thought!

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