When I was in Year 10, English Language still had a coursework component (I don’t think most exam boards do this for GCSE anymore). One of these pieces of coursework was to write an article/letter in response to another article on language change. Our teacher chose to use John Humphry’s “I h8 txt msgs: How texting is ruining our language” which I shan’t link to for it’s on the Daily Mail website, and it’s in everyone’s best interests to avoid such a place. I happened to find the article that I wrote in my Google Drive today, so I thought I’d upload it here, as I’m rather impressed with my Year 10 self and it’s surprisingly relevant to what I often write about on this blog.
After reading your article entitled, “I h8 txt msgs: How texting is wrecking our language”, which has no doubt landed you in the history books yet to be written, I felt compelled to weigh in with my own thoughts on how texting and ‘text speak’ is changing the course of our greatest medium of communication; our language itself.
Though you never directly express it in your article, you repeatedly imply that change has a negative effect on the English language. In my opinion, the crux of your argument is fundamentally flawed because change is neither inherently bad nor intrinsically good, rather, change can be positive, negative, or none of the above.
To move through your arguments as you present them in your article, firstly you state that the Oxford English Dictionary has “fallen victim to fashion”. This piece of rhetoric may appeal to the masses, especially in an era in which we are obsessed with being individual, but overall misses the point of the OED.
The Oxford English Dictionary claims in its Frequently Asked Questions page at public.oed.com “Forms shown in revised entries reflect modern evidence based on OED‘s quotation files and text corpora.” or to state simply, the dictionary’s entries reflect the current trends in writing so as to show the evolution of our written language throughout the dictionary’s editions. This infers that rather than the OED influencing modern-day texts, it is the ever-changing trends of modern literature that dictate the dictionary’s entries.
Secondly, you state that due to the changes in hyphenation written in the Oxford English Dictionary, writers are “required” to redact hyphens from their work, implying that the ruling of a dictionary should be adhered to under any circumstance. In reality, hyphenation is a stylistic choice, and for many years writers have decided whether to hyphenate or not without the ridicule of their peers. Good writing should convey the thoughts of a writer, and criticising someone’s use of hyphens is essentially trivial. From an informative point of view it does not matter so long as it gets the information across, and from a descriptive standpoint it can be regarded as a purposeful stylistic choice regardless of your personal beliefs on the matter.
To further address the point of criticism, you claim that supporters of texting “have many more arrows in their quiver” than those who are against more modern forms of communication, citing ridicule as one of them. This would be a perfectly valid point, had you not claimed that you are forced to “put up” with this form of criticism all the time, despite previously referring to text supporters as “raping our vocabulary”. To claim that you are a wronged party for being called ignorant while likening the ‘offending’ party to a rapist is rather hypocritical. I am sure I am not alone when I say that I would rather be likened to an old man stuck in his ways than a barbaric rapist.
Finally, you address abbreviations such as ‘IMHO’ and ‘LOL’ as “grotesque” and inferring that at times they can be completely incomprehensible. This is ironic, as pieces of the vocabulary that you use throughout your article is likely to leave many completely dumbfounded. “snaffle” “masochistic” and “grotesque” are likely not part of the typical person’s lexicon, although I would never discourage someone from learning their meanings as words can be fascinating. I believe that you should treat abbreviations and the rise of text speak with the same respect as you would treat a word you had not heard before – educate yourself about it and leave “just a little bit richer for the experience.”