Is Texting Ruining our Language?

As an undergraduate, one of my lecturers once said that language is a tug-of-war between laziness and comprehensibility. Laziness, and our desire to communicate with as little effort as possible will make language change, but our need for comprehension will temper how much it changes.

Text-language is a perfect example of this – we want to fit as much information as possible into as small a space as possible by pressing the fewest buttons, but it still needs to be understood by its recipient.

And people HATE it. Texting is ruining language. U no wen its all shrt & theres no pnctation lol. Isn’t it awful! Does it annoy you? Does it? Does it get your goat? (Actually, I’m drafting this in Word and it certainly gets Word’s goat – there’s so much red and green under that sentence it’s like Christmas.)

Actual linguists don’t hate texting. But then, our purpose is to describe language objectively, not to say whether it’s good or bad, right or wrong. That being said, ever since I got my first mobile way back when, I’ve been incapable of using any of the abbreviations; I’d always rather cut a clause or phrase than shorten a word!

Instead, most of the people who hate texting are the general public (and the Daily Mail. But I think we can take it for granted that if a thing is, the Daily Mail hates it).

The OUTRAGE when the OED introduced text-abbreviations this year! OMG. WTF. W.T.A.F. (never mind the fact that a dictionary’s role isn’t to say whether a word is good, or right, just to say that yes – this is a thing that is being used as a word and is in print enough for us to acknowledge it).

To quote the always excellent David Crystal:

‘The popular belief is that texting has evolved as a twenty-first-century phenomenon – as a highly distinctive graphic style, full of abbreviations and deviant uses of language, used by a young generation that doesn’t care about standards’*

But the fact is, this isn’t a new phenomenon. Writing is always dictated by the tools we use. Runes developed because straight lines are so much easier to carve in stone or onto bone. Roman inscriptions are all in big CAPITALS because they’re easier to carve. When quills and ink were developed, writing got curlier, but it was still slow because, as anyone who’s written with a fountain pen will know, you can’t go up without the ink splattering, so letters were formed carefully, using a series of strokes, rather than in one long scrawl (like my writing with a biro, which is possible because of the flexibility afforded by the ballpoint).

In 1890, telegraph operators’ language was dictated by the tools they used to transmit it. This lovely article shows operators abbreviating every word, taking out not just vowels but a lot of the consonants, too.

And then you have medieval scribes, my area of expertise. They abbreviated everything they could get their hands on.

Modern English has the ampersand, which comes from the Latin et, meaning ‘and’, which elided and morphed to become a single symbol.

This shows the evolution of et > & well enough.

That was, of course, for writing Latin. Old English had its own equivalent, the Tironian Nota: ‘7’ (pleasingly, on a modern English keyboard it’s the same key as the ampersand, and I don’t know if that’s intentional or not). And, just as the ampersand has been used to represent ‘et’ in longer words (such as ‘&c.’ for ‘etcetera’), so too was the tironian nota used for ‘and’ in longer words such as ‘andlang’, meaning ‘along’.

Some other common abbreviations can be seen here:

Beowulf. British Library, Cotton Vitellius, A. xv.**

The symbol in the middle of the lower red square is an abbreviated form of ‘þæt’, pronounced ‘that’ (the first letter is a rune called thorn pronounced ‘th’), meaning ‘that’ (see how little our language has changed in over a thousand years!). This little symbol is seen everywhere, all over Old English manuscripts, and is no different from the modern texting @ for ‘at’, or U, or 4, or 2.

The top red box is another beastie entirely. The line over the top of the ‘u’ (and now you’re officially reading an Anglo-Saxon manuscript) means that either an ‘n’ or and ‘m’ has been removed from the end of the word. It’s even more common than ‘that’. Sometimes it’s used as a space-saving device – near the end of a line to squish a whole word in – but really, it’s used everywhere. It’s used in every genre of text: poetry, legal texts, record keeping, annals, histories, narratives. It’s used on fancy illuminated pages and in biblical texts, it’s not restricted to informal discourse like texting abbreviations are.

There are, in fact, so many abbreviations in medieval manuscripts that there’s a dictionary just for the abbreviation marks. It’s been put online (start clicking on letters to view it page-by-page). This is, frankly, far more extensive than anything we’ve yet to come up with through texting, and this is in Latin, the language we hold above all others and upon which we base our insane grammatical rules! And in Old English, the oldest and therefore BEST form of our language! At least, this is how they’re used in arguments by people scared about language changing and ‘corrupting’, when actually, language is language. It’s inextricably human and the ways we use it are the same whether we’re writing on parchment or texting on a phone.

I initially intended to write this blog post just to highlight the fact that abbreviation has been around, basically, as long as writing has, and it’s not new technology that’s causing a shift in the way we write. But, as I was researching it, a friend sent me a link to a BBC news article linking texting to literacy in children, which throws in a whole new line of conversation – not only is texting not corrupting language, it could actually be improving it. How d’you like that then, critics?

The article says:

‘when pupils replace or remove sounds, letters or syllables – such as “l8r” for “later” or “hmwrk” for “homework” – it requires an understanding of what the original word should be’

and concludes:

‘The use of text language “was actually driving the development of phonological awareness and reading skill in children”’

So, the process of creating a text-speak abbreviation involves being able to identify the various parts of a word and then being able to take bits out or to substitute them. Innovations with language like this require a relatively robust understanding of the language in the first place and the knowledge to be able to manipulate it meaningfully.

So, not only is texting not a terrible new scourge on our language, not only is it not showing a dumbing-down of the younger generation, but it’s actually helping them! Who knew?

Of course, I am a linguist and as such have to be totally descriptivist about this and not say that text-language is the WORST THING EVER because it’s just, demonstrably, not (this is also my get-out clause when I make mistakes in my writing – I’m a linguist, I believe there are no rights and wrongs in language, STOP BEING SO PRESCRIPTIVIST AT ME. What are you, THE MAN?). Its users are not, as John Humphrys so vividly puts it, ‘doing to our language what Genghis Khan did to his neighbours 800 years ago. They are destroying it: pillaging our punctuation; savaging our sentences; raping our vocabulary’. They are, instead, continuing a millennia-old tradition of abbreviation and linguistic innovation, and improving their language skills, and all you prescriptivist grumps can put that in your pipes and smoke it!

* David Crystal, Txting: The Gr8 Db8 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), p. 7.
** As is always the way when you try to find an example to illustrate a point, you can never find any of the buggers anywhere. Such was my search for pictures of abbreviation in manuscripts that weren’t copyright. I’d love to show you endless manuscript images with all sorts of abbreviations, but the law gets in my way. Instead, here is the first page of Beowulf, the most famous Anglo-Saxon manuscript image there is.

Some further reading:

– This isn’t a new topic. It’s not widely talked about, but there’s enough that I’m not going to say anything groundbreaking or new here. This article by David Crystal tells you pretty much everything you need to know about text language, and if there’s more you want to know, read Txtng: the Gr8 Db8 which is the full version of that article.

– There was a nice article in the Independent this week about new abbreviations appearing in specialized spheres, and, pleasingly, my current role model and linguistically innovative hero got a shout-out:

‘Since acronyms are designed to create brevity and clarity in language, it is intriguing when they become words in themselves which are then expanded and conjugated for fun. In years to come, the OED may cite Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman as the first official use of “rofling”, from the online shorthand ROFL, meaning Rolling On Floor Laughing.’

– Lynne Truss, everyone’s favourite prescriptivist, doesn’t comment on the linguistic issues here, other than to say that she doesn’t do abbreviating herself, and Will Self is fantastic about language change.

– A paper on the history of abbreviation, if you can get it:
Félix Rodriguez and Garland Cannon, ‘Remarks on the Origin and Evolution of Abbreviations and Acronyms’, in F. Fernández, et al., eds., English Historical Linguistics 1992: Papers from the 7th International Conference on English Historical Linguistics, Valencia, 22-26 September, 1992 (Amsterdam, 1994), pp. 262-272 (at 266).

176 responses to “Is Texting Ruining our Language?

  1. This article is amzing. I was paying attention to this part:

    ” U no wen its all shrt & theres no pnctation lol. Isn’t it awful! Does it annoy you? Does it? Does it get your goat? (Actually, I’m drafting this in Word and it certainly gets Word’s goat – there’s so much red and green under that sentence it’s like Christmas.)”

    It seems this is happening everywhere. A lot of people tend to wirte in that way, but not only when they’re sending text messeges, or writing on a messenger. It’s as if they were transporting this to everyday writting. I used to see this in some students for example when they had to make their work at school and they write as if they were using a computer or a mobile phone. English is not my mother tongue, but I work as a translator and I can see many of the examples you’ve mentioned before in the use of written language. To finish, Let me tell you that I really enjoyed reading your blog because I love Linguistics very much.

    • Thanks so much for reading, and even more for commenting! I’m so glad you like the post.
      One of the things I love is that we do see text abbreviations in the wrong situations such as essays or job applications, but one of the things I pointed out in the post is that this division is new – the Bible was the most formal of formal texts a medieval scribe could copy, yet it’s littered with abbreviations, and that just wasn’t an issue. This attitude of preservation and purity of language is really quite modern.
      I hope you’ll continue to read as we post more interesting things!

  2. Absolutely brilliant! I enjoyed this article as much as I could ever enjoy reading. Perfect examples of language change, and each argument is expressed with extreme clarity. An article which has aided my language change cw (notably, an abbreviation that prescriptivists shouldn’t be too happy with), and I’ll be back! *Arnold Schwarzenegger voice*

  3. Texting is ruining our entire communication and social system.

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  5. Wouldn’t be so bad if acronyms such as OMG and LOL had not entered everyday speech as well. Let it go back to the digital realm from whence It came and never uttered in my presence!
    Glad to have found your blog though :)

    • It’s so trendy that the word “lol” is been used in everyday’s speech !!! I doubt that people do really mean that when they say “lol” !!

      • I’m sure they mean to laugh out loud…so instead of saying “lol” why not just laugh? Lol. See, it works here as you can’t hear me laughing right now ;) that was my point. Just laugh.

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  7. Your article was amazing… Absolutely brilliant!

  8. This is gr8. I always thought texting was ruining our language too, but then I thought how ridiculous our language is in the first place. Good read.

  9. F ve dgsz vexd

  10. – (
    9##Zip@7 9Zi&97p;

  11. This is such an amazing article.. Actually very true.. In this era the power of our language is depleting gradually.. Awesome.. :)

  12. Good post. I however male sure my spelling is good and so is my punctuation. English bring second language for me,I take pride in spelling things right.
    Good read.

  13. Lol…as I missplelled make not male!

  14. My son, who has had issues with writing and spelling, has improved his skills a lot by just texting with his friends. I can’t say texting has had the same effect on me. I find myself typing u in work emails…

  15. A very interesting read; being a part of the “doomed” generation ( in terms of language at least), I pride myself on not having succumbed to the so called plague that is text language. However,your post does bring to attention the fact that the language we are using now is, in fact, the new-and-simplified version.
    Maybe language is just evolving and we are all reluctant conservatives.
    So be it.

  16. Oh My God!!! Totally true. I have to bite my tongue when I read a word bad written because I don’t want to hurt any feelings, but aren’t they hurting words and language feelings?

  17. I get a real kick out of trying to beat Twitter by writing coherent messages without abbreviations. Cheap entertainment!

  18. Great post! Thanks for shinning light on this language and texting. Definitely a topic worth discussing.

  19. Texting language is the Idiocracy of communication but it saves time–there’s no faster way to identify a vapid moron than to hear it tumble out of their mouth.

  20. A great read, it’s true the daily mail hates petty much anything that exits. Lol. I find it interesting as a teacher trying to teach writing and reading and then you get all the abbreviations popping in. You can still read it and know what it says but technically is not correct.
    Thanks for creating an interesting debate

  21. Bad grammar gets on my nerves, and therefore seeing text language annoys me. It’s even worse when it is spoken, but sometimes it is difficult to avoid, especially as it has become so common- it just slips into conversation. I always feel very silly once I realise what I’ve said when it happens!

  22. Fantastic article! I have been fascinated by text speak since it first emerged and have thoroughly enjoyed reading your insights on this modern phenomenon. Xx

  23. Oh I hate it when people “Tlk lyk dis” its so irritating. It feels like there’s no effort in the conversation and there’s no real meaning or value to what’s being said. Society has become so damn lazy they can’t be bothered to right full sentences or even end the sentence with a full stop.

    Well written article, enjoyed reading this one 💪

  24. Your lecturer describes the texting mentality better than anyone I know. And now when we’ve all moved away from our desk tops and carry our devices with us it’s not just the young who are the culprits. Way back when, my son explained that emails are meant for quick communication, they are not an electronic version of letter writing. I should have suspected then, but I’m of an age and mentality that doesn’t appreciate change or acknowledge it until it bites me on the bum.
    When I think about where language is heading i think about Face Time and other media that counts on visual rather than written communication. Even though it’s become a collectible I still get use out of my elderly dictionary. I’ve had it since high school days. And still prefer it to my electronic spell checker. If you have any complaints about my ramble, contact my sons. Fabulous post. Like Veronica, I was paying attention.

  25. When I text, depending on who I’m speaking with, I’m more relaxed with my words. I admit, I do feel that I need to use proper grammar even while texting. That could be of course just that fear that you’re less sophisticated, or just plain lazy. I don’t think it should be that big of a deal to be honest, and I don’t think it represent some cataclysmic drop in intelligence.

  26. The simplicity is a blessing and a curse all in it’s own. I love your point of view on this topic.

  27. Interesting lecture and very well written!

  28. This is a debate worth following. It has become so annoying. Like “k” for OK. Can you imagine that even texting OK is a task.

  29. Good info ! and evolution of language is still keep on moving, and technology like internet very influence.

  30. It is not ruining our language because people that write using “text talk” do not write books or publish anything meaningful. What it does ruin are individuals. There are actually some people out there that are unable to write a proper sentence. It makes it very difficult for them to express themselves through writing.

    The day that someone writes “lk dis” on a published book or on a science journal or scholar book, is the day when the language will be ruined.

  31. Call me old fashioned but I prefer pen to paper when receiving a letter instead of receiving a email in my inbox with Arial size 12 font, face-to-face communication rather than discussing a matter over text, and at least a phone call when being asked out on a date rather than receiving a text message with text language and the use of emoticons, “r u free fri nite @ 7 ;-)”

    Even though I feel texting is ruining our language the advancement of technology cannot go unscathed, as it must be accredited as the beast that has contributed to the advancement of English language distortion…

  32. A very appropriate topic, given to this smartphone and texting generation. Good one Kate.

  33. I’d have to say it is sad that it’s easier to text someone how you feel now days rather than call or talk face to face.. I’m guilty of this also

  34. Brilliant article! You really captured my interest, my linguistics professor could learn a thing or two from you! Lol brb TTFN!

  35. Nice post – thank you!
    I’ve tried introducing phones and keyboards to teach ESL phonics to rural elementary school pupils. The results were mixed, but this post is encouraging me to give it another go.

  36. This was a really interesting post.

  37. txt is an excuse for people bad at spelling like me!😜

  38. True so true. I loathe text-speak as it must be changing the language and not for the better. I worry that if youngsters only ever use text-speak then their ability to communicate by reading and writing will be impaired.
    I can see things getting worse as today’s youngsters leave their place of education and are employed ill-prepared for ‘the real world.’

  39. I loved this! Earlier this year I was inspired by the history of the Ampersand to write a poem. As I read more and more about it (and other lost abbreviations, characters) I couldn’t believe it. Thanks for more history on the topic!

    Although it seems that a shift to more complex expressions of language via shorthand might lead to a gap in knowledge. As you quoted in the article “‘when pupils replace or remove sounds, letters or syllables – such as “l8r” for “later” or “hmwrk” for “homework” – it requires an understanding of what the original word should be’”, but what would happen as the shorthand became more concentrated?

  40. This is a very thoughtfull and interesting post! I agree with so much you have said here. great work

  41. Great article! Texting is all about being concise. How efficient can we voice our opinions in 140 characters or less? People are forgetting to have conversations because they are too busy editing their thoughts before pressing the reply or send button. People are so used to texting, editing thoughts prior to hitting the send button, that conversing intimidates them. Talking means showing emotion in real time. You show your thoughts without editing them and may say something that you could polish up via a text. How frightening is it to be genuine? It’s sad that we have a couture of people afraid to be themselves, yet, priding themselves on being thought provoking individuals.

    Does it ruin our language? Yes, as you have enumerated in your blog. The important issue systemic from texting is that it allows people to hide from conversation.

    Happy Wednesday. -Summer

  42. I see texting lingo as a new form of shorthand.

  43. All I felt upon reading this was relief I’m not a school teacher teaching English. It made me curious though if other languages are also subject to this?

  44. As much as I like texting for the convenience of it, you best believe I don’t abbreviate or fail to use punctuation. I also love getting a handwritten letter in the mail – gasp! – no matter how many people laugh at me for it. Great post!

  45. Interesting read. I do agree.

  46. The article was mindboggling. Your insight into recent researches and conclusions made it easier to estimate the pluses and minuses. There is not doubt that 21st century is the century of texting, smartphones and tabs but it is our responsibility to ensure that these does not troll our language. It may be true that abbreviations of words like ‘l8r b8r’ may generate greater consciousness among the kids and they may develop keen ears for pronunciation of words but somehow it restricts the scope of the language developement. We text short and simple without embellishments and that can result in poor writing skills indirectly ruining language.

  47. The control of voice and tongue …is also concerned…when we speak a different language that is strange…

    This blog is different….and nice ..

  48. Fascinating. I didn’t know texting was helping kids learn language. It makes sense. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

  49. Wow, realy good article

  50. Very educational and informative post.

  51. Et tu Bruté? And did the conspirators roll on the floor laughing in Caesar’s blood. If the id would catch on fire who would want to tickle it so it would roll on the floor, but even then I don’t think it would laugh. There’s so much laughing going on that I can’t remember what guffaw means, or what trickle-down ‘for crying out loud’ means-tested means. I want to have a word with you, not an abbreviation. To chortle, to chuckle, to giggle, to b or not to be, or to suffer the sting of the bee who is not to be a honey, THAT i.e. ‘that is the question-mark of the Zeitgeist’ that haunts us when we say carpe diem which means “finger the day” with a middling carp. The house of words is on fire. Tell that dog to roll over and speak even if it’s up the wrong tree. A tree by the name of Rose is not sweet and has no maple syrup — don’t pancake words that are meant to be sticky with meaning. To say tiglekso is to take consequences lightly.

  52. Language is always evolving, and language snobbery seems to follow whenever there is a large shift. I think it comes from a place of fear, though most people wouldn’t say that if you asked. After all, I spent many years in school learning how to write, putting time and money into that education, and the degrees I’ve earned are supposed to say, “Look, world! She has proven competent and employable. Note her well-crafted paragraphs, and how she never ends a sentence with a preposition. She is worthy of your respect.” If we don’t seem to value these things anymore, why did I go through all that?
    However, I like your point that shortening things, like “late” -> “l8r” or “homework” -> “hmwrk” means the writer must know what it’s supposed to look like.

  53. I am not a native speaker but I hate reading english abbreviations made up by teens. It is hard to understand and it definitely ruins original language

  54. Very clever.. I tip my hat!!

  55. Nice post, very interesting :D

  56. Oh.. So Nice..

  57. I am just scared, that I can’t keep up. That’s ahy I’m not so keen on texting communication.

  58. It’s definitely impacting the English language. I wonder how texting is impacting other languages like Chinese and others?

    • Now that you mentioned it, I am suddenly thinking the same, whether this phenomenon is just in English….

    • Also in Portuguese and Spanish, every language would find its way to make life a little easier. I think it’s now entitled in this generation in which we waste so much of our precious time on the Internet, to have to cut down the time we waste somewhere else. Unfortunately, it is one of the most powerful tools we have in life-the ability to communicate in a way that we are indeed understood by everyone.

  59. Oh yes, in germany we’ve got the same problems. Everyone writes some shorts and you sie in front of your mobile or computer and dont know what the other person means. I’m happy, that in school we have to write the formal language and not the language we use many times at home.

  60. A very well researched article. Kudos!

  61. Great post! You had my mind flipping in many directions. I’m now on the verge of arguing with myself whether or not I dislike this new form of “shorthand” or find it intriguing.

  62. “Gr8 pst/Great post” as long as one comprehends wht the writer has to/2 say… ;) :)

  63. This is a 5 star piece, actually talking about civilization of our time and the shift or perhaps, evolution. Texting isn’t a thing to scorn because it always root back the original, we can’t be formal always most especially in this social networking era.

  64. grammar has been scandalized beyond repair ….but on the other hand it seems almost as if a new language is taking birth from its ashes

  65. I am not a texter, but I do find it interesting. What I don’t like about texting is that my students are doing it when they should be doing some other task in class. This could include paying attention to me, paying attention to their partner, or taking part in some activity.
    My students claim they can do more things at one time than previous generations. I simply can’t agree. I agree they can juggle more tasks at once, but since I have to repeat things I clearly told them, I know that they are not actually paying attention to two things at one time. Rather they are just able to switch between them quicker.

  66. Never really thought about it like that. The bit about writing being tool-dependent, that is. Most deffs fud 4 thot!

  67. As an English teacher I try to teach my students that there is a time and a place for texting “language”. It’s just not in a research paper:) Great post!

  68. Enjoyable read, and agreed on the whole. Ultimately, there is no point to prescriptivism; the language won’t stop evolving, no matter how much academics stamp their feet and whine. Just ask the French – they tried and failed … lol

  69. Nice post. ☺Shorten texts is like reading codes. Hahaha but texting can be fun and fast way to communicate, and it is important for us to employ different ways of communication; that texting, talking and writing are different things. We can learn all of it.

  70. God yes! I lit cnt spell 4 shyt animoar, lol (๑•̀ㅁ•́๑)✧٩(๑´0`๑)۶

  71. It really is ruining our language. When people write ‘mah’ instead of ‘my’, it’s irritating and also reveals a lot about one’s character!

  72. Ys, txtng is lzy,
    only joking! I suppose it’s just the way things are these days unfortunately.
    I don’t like text speak, always preferring to spell out the whole word. Call me old fashioned x
    Great post. x

  73. Texting is destroying verbal, social and written interactions and communication on every level. And specifically ‘text speak’ is beyond lazy and frustrating! I HATE texting, sending and receiving. What’s wrong with sitting down to write a letter, pick a telephone to make a call or just visit in person? Are we all so busy and wrapped up in our own petty lives, surfing on the internet on our new fan dangled smart phone or tablet, or too busy on our laptop sitting at the local Costa or Starbucks whilst sipping on the equivalent of a soup bowl size skinny decaf latte?! It’s so very very sad. The worst part is that society as a whole has become so accustomed to instant gratification with instant downloads, streaming new release movies instead waiting for a DVD or buying a CD, using credit cards to buy things on borrowed money instead of saving the cash for it and buying it outright, lay away plans, and TEXTING! Instead of visiting someone or telephoning, or even just sending a bloody email, now we just condense it into 140 characters (most of which are stupid acronyms for phrases… WTF?!) and send the message in a second and sit waiting for the next few hours for a bloody reply. Just pick up the phone and call, for fuck sake! Sick of it. Sick.

  74. Such a good article. Very well written and some lovely points in there.

    It’s nice to see how you’ve raised the fact that this is not the first – or last – time that language has developed or been abbreviated. I think that that is something some may have forgotten.

  75. Great post. Working in a call center with a bunch of younger people all emails look like extended texts.

  76. Very interesting post.

  77. Interesting post! Thanks for sharing :)

  78. I’ve always abbreviated various words (i.e., hmwk for homework, atty for attorney, mtg for meeting, and several of the typical ones such as etc., i.e., and e.g.). I just found it easier to write/type quicker that way. However, I will also readily admit that my spelling is atrocious. If it weren’t for the red squiggles everywhere, no one would be able to read what I’ve written for all of the money on Earth. When I was a kid, the focus was on getting the ideas out rather than spelling, as a result, I spelled things as they sounded, and that was fine until 4th grade when my teacher decided that spelling was everything. I constantly got docked points for words like “thay” and “oshun”. It was pathetic. Now I can spell those words, but I still have a rotten time of other words :-)

    However, I am partially of the opinion that text abbreviations are the complete downfall of society. I do not think that text-abbreviations themselves are really all that bad (I use them), but I think it’s more a matter of everyone understanding what’s being communicated. That’s where it gets very tricky. Generational gaps make it even more difficult. My mother has her own version of short-hand texting, and it definitely made for some pretty insane moments. My favorite one: “Aunt X hosp @ home & rushed.MB hrtatk noknow. ICU. BAD. LOL” In her defense, she was new to texting, but it took me 5 minutes to figure out that my aunt was in the hospital and was rushed in from her home by one of her sons. They didn’t know what was wrong, they think it’s a heart attack, and she’s in bad shape and in the ICU. Then I actually got to the LOL. I was flabbergasted – what the hell was funny about any of the rest of it? was it a joke? a bad one… a really bad one, if it was. I ended up calling my mom to find out what was going on. First thing she said was “didn’t you get my text?” um…yeah…. but it makes no sense! She confirmed I had the message correct, and then informed me that I was wrong: LOL is not “Laughing out Loud”, but rather “Lots of Love”. I told her she was wrong, she ignored me. She proceeded to pass that same message along to my sisters — all of us ended up calling her and clarifying her mistake for her. It still took over a year to get her to understand LOL after a serious message causes nothing but headaches. Finally she caught on, and she changed it to LYL (love you lots) and it does not cause communication problems anymore. But seriously, for a while it was really horrible. Think of a bad thing, and then LOL it at the end… you never knew if she was serious or not. then for about six months, she was using LYL and randomly switching it to LOL so we REALLY didn’t know what was going on. Now she’s got it down (3 years later). And her other abbreviations aren’t much easier to decipher; especially since they don’t really save any time or characters. ettsy was etc for her, choko was chocolate, it just goes on and on. oy!

    But thank you for a fun read, a good link, and a chance to vent to someone other than my sisters about my mother’s insane abbreviations :-)

  79. Really? I don’t agree much with Bsneeki. I really enjoyed your post. You explained what we’re all dealing with both young and old. Kids are trying to make sense of their technology just like adults. However, adults have a harder time adapting and changing. We don’t want to accept something new because we always think we’re right–myself included. Yet, as much as I resisted the texting language, I sometimes write “r u ok” and send emojis instead of actual explanations. Thank you for offering linguistic approach to our new way of communicating.

  80. I agree with the person who mentioned not knowing what the shortened version means. This from a secretary who had to learn shorthand if I wanted to make more money. My daughter sent me a text that said, “dl sus”. I had to ask her what it meant. I hate texting when it begins to replace talking to another person. But I do like to type “WTF”! And dl sus meant driver’s license suspended, oops.

  81. I really enjoyed this article! You make some really great points about prescriptivism and how abbreviations are hardly a new facet or a “deterioration” of language. I think that the OED was right to include abbreviations and text speak. After all, language is all about usage, right? If we went around cherry-picking the language that is used then we wouldn’t have an accurate idea of how our language is developing.

    Personally, I’m not a big fan of text speak, because it’s hard for me to understand. But I think that’s probably because I’m a bit behind the times when it comes to technology, and I don’t think texting is intrinsically good or bad. I am curious, however, what your thoughts are about text speak used verbally and not just as a written convenience. I think it’s unnecessary since often the abbreviations take more time to say than the actual words, thus defeating the purpose of the abbreviation (for example, saying “www” instead of “world wide web”). Surely in that case both principles of laziness and comprehension are against its usage. I would think social factors such as age and status would perhaps be the deciding features for that usage. What do you think?

  82. This is very interesting

  83. Texting makes our lives easier and makes the world a smaller place, but I agree with you, our ‘old’ language is a better way to communicate. The everyday acronyms shorten everyday conversations and make communication feel lazy. Wonder what’s next… Holographic texting?

  84. U couldn’t agree more. Languages as we see it today will look so different in 50 years .

  85. I can tell someone’s taken a history of the English language course and paid attention! Nicely done.

  86. Brilliant and informative, this article is both light with the humor and heavy on the point. I love it!

  87. Nice piece of basic research to section-off, theme that I’ve seen extolled in magazine ‘American Scientific’ (c2011 vi hopeful recall), that generally recognized & supported notion that we shall require a new ‘pictograph/gliph’, based language to cope with expanding multi-media /internet usage.

  88. Couldn’t agree more! Really enjoyable read

  89. True what you say. Considering that most modern languages kind of lost most of their formalism it’s no s surprise that the process continues. I think if no dictionary had been set in stone in the 18thc Shakespeare’s works would be even more cryptic to the modern eyes. However, when the decay of worldwide educational systems leads to weird abbreviations which lead to ambiguous grammar and potentially wrong spellings, I’m no longer game.

  90. Well, maybe txting helping children learn the sounds of letters and words isn’t the same as it being a positive change in the language as a whole. It’s sort of a short term side benefit, who knows if it will ultimately and fundamentally warp English? Like you said yourself: not necessarily right or wrong, good or bad. Just different.

  91. Very nice insights into the tussle between the various forms of expression of the language. Of course, texting is ruining the elegance of the language but it’s an evolution and it started long before, when we used we’ll instead of we will.

  92. A very enjoyabe read, knowledgable and amusing. I think people tend to forget that language is alive and positively dynamic. I think the ways people use language creatively are absolutely intruiging. Slang, texting, poetic license, vernacular & neologisms all keep our languages alive and kicking (imho).

  93. Good read. I never thought our way of texting would impact a lot.

  94. I found this extremely insightful. I still don’t like the short handed texts but, if you say it’s a sign of intelligence I’ll go with that! lol jk smh ;-)

  95. Oh My Godzills! YES! It annoys the heck out of me when I read something written that way. “SMS” language was created when there was a very high constraint on the number of characters in text messages. Now when we have freedom to write so much, it looks stupid. I don’t like offending people on the issues, but it’s annoying.

  96. excellent article. i cant remember the last time i sat down and wrote a letter. everyone seems emails & texting are the way to go

  97. Singaporeans are lazy then. Singlish is basically a mixture of dialects and languages in order to speak with as little effort as possible.

  98. You hit the nail on the head. Actual writing has been obliterated by abbreviations and laziness in the “digital” age. It’s sad and yet amusing that people find it cumbersome to text : Take Care and send tc. Sigh

  99. Language continues to evolve. One day we will no longer use written letters (like we are no longer using cursive that much).

  100. Love this post. I am so glad I came across it. I have been guilty of being grammatically incorrect, more often than I can say, but I truly do not like the texting laziness that has taken over. It shows in school, as children are unable to spell even simple words. Thanks for the article. You have been Heard!

  101. This is a great article that does make some great points. Sad thing is, i’m 23 and i don’t know what half of the texting language means. I have to google a majority of it to my embarrasment.

  102. A historical take on a modern phenomena. Amazing!

    Sometimes it bothers me that for non-english speakers, the majority of the masses adopts this form of communication as their primary. As a result, some cannot articulate in English properly, and it becomes a problem. In the Philippines, textspeak and l33tspeak together has formed a new form of subculture, equally embraced and disgraced by society. It’s a nice look that it’s a way of language evolving, but it scares me into what direction our languages go.

    Great read!

  103. At the time I got my first mobile phone, there was a character limit and cost per page(?) that I had to use abbreviations to make sure I still had enough credit left. Tough but good for discipline. However, now that we have smartphones, there’s not much to worry about and so I started to txt 😜 in full sentences complete with punctuations. I suppose it also depends on the situation such as mine.

  104. Though not a linguist, I majored in English and took some classes in the development of language. I love that language changes. But, I have to admit, when I get a butchered text message it drives me nuts. I have to read it over about three times to understand what it’s saying.

    Thanks for this post. It had the right amount of humor and seriousness while being informational. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Being from the TV generation, if it’s more than 500 words I stop reading. But, I read it all. 😀

  105. Texting is ruining our language ,I totally agree with you. I’m guilty of this as well

  106. It is interesting to see how language changes through time. Technology seems to have dramatically increased the rate/amount of changes.

  107. I remember taking linguistic s in college 1, 000 years ago and loving it. Language is a living thing and will always change. Both spoken and written language evole just as you wrote. What bothers me is the loss of the personally written word, letters, cards etc. Finding what I call real mail in mt mailbos can change a gloomy day into a better one. If the writer chooses to abbreviate, I am fine with that. I just treasure holding the letter. Just think if we move to nothing but computer generated written words we would miss all the nuances of writing.

  108. Yes, texting does undermines your vocabulary plus linguistic skills also.

  109. I really like this cuz it’s an interesting “problem” to talk about and keep it up girl cuz you’re amazing

  110. thepighasacurlytail

    Great viewpoint you share. Sad commentary on humanity that Merriam-Webster competes with online Urban Dictionary for definitions. Is there an
    equivalent to carpal tunnel syndrome for people who text so quickly
    using their thumbs? Perhaps carpal “thumbal” syndrome.

  111. There is a intellectual problem with too many shortcuts. Taking the easy, sloppy way diminishes your ability to come up with something greater than before. Writing now is easier than ever before, but rarely is it better. When the writer runs out of decent verse and blah blah blah is a force in literature, or when you no longer have the capacity to communicate beautifully, we have lost an appreciable part of our culture

  112. I LOVE words. I love finding just the right word, re-working sentences, structuring longer text. I can be a grump about what we are doing to the English language, especially when it comes to texting. I text, I mutilate standard English with abreviations, but I know the difference. I know when to use standard English, when casual language is acceptable, and when using texting abreviations is acceptable. I think that is the key: knowing the variety of registers that is available and when to use each.

  113. Ugh, I am with you! I absolutely refuse to type like that. I’ll spend 5 more minutes reworking something so it fits rather than abbreviating it. It is completely ignorant to write like that on any platform.

  114. Great post! I often worry where the real conversations went. I absolutely hate having meaningful conversations via text messaging. It lacks personality, and there’s so many other factors that go unnoticed.

  115. Sometimes, I can’t even make sense of what is being said with all the abbreviations and emoticons. The elegance of writing and the beauty of the language lost in a conundrum of jargon.

  116. So true ;D

  117. Texting language is affecting the way people communicate with each other nowadays. Taking these shortcuts to communicate can take a toll in the long run

  118. Wow so our kids are actually going to be TWICE as smart, knowing two different versions of English!!!

  119. I’m not one to read long posts, but this was definetly worth my time. As a non-native english speaker, I’ve been concerned about my writing skills since I started studying english. At the time I had no other option than to write entire senteces to get my point across. Now that everyone has a smartphone, and you don’t even need to type entire words to have a conversation, I feel like people (english students) rely more on their phone’s keyboards than their actual understanding of the language. So, for kids it might be working, but for adults it might be doing some damage…

  120. It really bothers me at school as a trainee teacher. A child is more familiar with those abbreviations than the concept of a capital letter or how to spell basic words! Such a shame the younger generation is being dumbed down. I very rarely use abbreviations, unless on Twitter!

  121. texting is ruining every language.

  122. Reblogged this on penaccelerated and commented:
    The shortcuts by pen…!

  123. I hate “text speak”. I have spent far too much time asking an explanation of FYI ROFL etc. Unsurprisingly for those who know me, I had no problem with STFU

  124. I’m glad I found this post. Personally, I don’t send a single text without checking on my spelling and even in chat boxes I look for creative words show what I mean. But I’m not offended by abbreviations because I’m aware not everyone cares about writing as a subject and that’s cool with me. At the end of the day the prescriptivism argument gets the last laugh. However, if it can change one way, who says it can’t change back to what it once was. Funny because it would paradoxically mean that prescriptivism and descriptivism would be both right (prescriptivists would be happy to note the proof of language changing but at the same time descriptivists would be happy with it changing back to more traditional times).

  125. Very interested in double entendres of texting; ie most millennials receiving a text ‘lol I no’ will detect a certain amount of irony, but parents generation would use these abbreviations for purely practical reasons. Such an interesting current opening in linguistics study, really, it’s exciting that it’s going on as we speak

  126. That was an amazing post!!

    Even I wonder people using short-form like “nopes” for a simple word like “no” !!!
    On other hand just sending “GM” for good morning !! Yeah I agree that it’s some time bit annoying. ….well but that’s what today’s trend is !!!

    I wonder how that day would be when the texting language actually becomes one’s speech……actually it’s happening. …..!!!!

  127. I agree! We should take advantage of using such beautiful language. Check out my blog too on social media. Keep it up

  128. very true, this can actually even be said to extend back as far as Linear A and Linear B from early Minoan Civilization ?

  129. I think that texting is tearing our language up

  130. I enjoyed this post. I did a lot of work on this topic during a level English. Language is a wonderful thing and has been developing ever since man spoke his first word. This is just natural progression, even though to us it is not a good thing.

  131. This is why I vowed a very long time ago to actually text in full words… nt lyk ths , I realize that it even affected my ability to remember how a word is spelt and really limited my vocabulary. Love this post btw (by the way) !!

  132. texting is butchering English language!

  133. We actually have this kind of problem here in Thailand too. Well, the bad thing is even the media helps generializing it. No hope here.

  134. Wonderful post! Texting has ruined this generation’s chance at learning the proper way to read, write, and communicate. I still believe in pen and paper.

  135. How I HATE text-speak… But this does make a lot of sense. So much logic. You could not have explained it better.
    I guess now I can just complain about how much I DON’T understand it.

  136. I started to put something smart aleck here and abbreviate it, but I thought it might get lost in the translation. I love language. Text shorthand may save time for the creator, but the reader has to be a puzzle solver. I don’t know how many times a personalized auto tag and interpreting it has left me with a big question mark that haunted me. That is the way many texts leave me…haunted and confused.

  137. Being a youth of the generations you speak of, I have to say I am equally as appalled at the amount of laziness in communication. Then written word, taking the place of word-of-mouth when direct conversation is not attainable, should be understandable, eloquent, and executed with just as much effort. I’m afraid we are loosing more than the ability to communicate through writing. I found out just recently that a lot of my fellow classmates in highschool have never learned cursive. It made me feel like a relic.

  138. I try to use caution when my first response is to be against anything new. Texting is new. When I started to write, then teach writing, we didn’t even have a computer. It was all paper. But things change. I look forward to seeing how texting evolves, perhaps something we don’t even know about now will replace texting and we all will go in a different direction. Hopefully, there will be enough purists remaining to pick up the pieces and teach the art of writing.

  139. Texting has indeed become its own language. It’s an interesting phenomenon to see this occur in our own lifetime. I am not personally guilty of using a lot of texting lingo. I speak and write in full sentences and my spelling and vocabulary are above average (at least I think they are!). I do occasionally get lazy. Lol! Thank you for the interesting article.

  140. Yes it is. Texting in abbreviations has ruin what is beautiful about language and words. Young kids and adolescents who text shorthand do not know who to turn it off, they often cannot make the transition from texting to articulate writing.

  141. I don’t do text much. In my opinion generally texting isn’t a good behavior to communicate in a proper way and yes some of people even forget the right way to say things so they just type and go. Language is getting more and more distorted by the way people ignore simple rules of it and create more acceptable thing in society.

  142. I see what you’re saying here, but as a middle/ high school teacher I do not believe that what we are seeing is a repeat of a timeless pattern of abbreviation. For the children I work with, spelling is a major issue. Nearly half of them produce incomprehensible work due to their inability to read and write effectively. When I study letters and speeches written by common farmers from the Civil War, or examine the linguistic patterns of the early twentieth century, I find their vocabulary to be exceptional and their linguistic style just as remarkable. We are losing the newest generations to technology; and before you jump to the conclusion that I’m some geezer of a teacher, I’m only 23. I find that far too many parents and even those I know personally keep their kids quiet by giving them a phone or tablet to play with instead of making them read and write. The technology behind texting has crippled our ability to communicate with textual flair and more importantly demolished our ability to have conversations out loud. It’s pretty darn scary.

  143. I really enjoyed this blog today. Language, I believe is there to be used by the people who need to communicate. It is organic; it never stays the same and that is as it should be. Best wishes, Jacqui

  144. Great Post! Interesting perspective too on the fact that texting actually is not a dumbing down of our language but more a creative abbreviated method. Yet I’m an old school girl. I have never written “lol” except just right there. I prefer old fashion writing out the word just like I don’t think I will ever let go of a printed book in hand. But I was totally fascinated with your post. A lot to ponder indeed…

  145. Being a teacher of 5th and 6th graders I feel the language my students use is sometimes very casual , they are so used to of using abbreviations for everything that they inculcate that language in their work as well thus the quality of work is very low. I need to tell them to read what they have written several times as mostly their language skills are very weak. If the very base of a child is this weak how will they ever cope up.

  146. Being a mature post-graduate Masters student, working side by side with students 30 plus years my younger, I found that they were very eloquent with their use of the English language and would chop and change between modes (text or composition) with seamless ease. I also learned a lot from working closely with my fellow students.

  147. Kate, even though you wrote this in 2011, my mobile WordPress ‘recommended’ your essay to me yesterday. I can’t stop laughing out loud! I have always lamented that our language is going right into the proverbial “dumper,” and my parents are likely spinning in their respective boxes over what has happened to our language. I am “SMH,” to say the least! Great essay!

  148. Pingback: Texting…the bane of our existence? | Niblick's Signs of Intelligent Life--or Not!

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