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Texting and the Future of the English Language

Updated on June 20, 2014
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Confessions of a non-texter

Do you spend most of your day with your cell phone in your hand, waiting for that notification that you’ve received a text message? Are you one of the billions who depends on texting to do your job or to keep in touch with loved ones? If the answer is yes, you could be making history. You are changing the future of the English language.

I must confess that I don’t text. In fact, I’ve only had a smart phone for a few months and I still don’t know how to use it. I grew up with telephones that were stationary and had a rotary dial. Pulse dialing came along in my youth and I was a teenager when cordless phones arrived on the scene. When I got my first cell phone it was only because my aging parents might need me when I wasn’t at home. Making casual calls from my car was never something I was interested in. In fact, my car was a refuge from all those calls that had no purpose and, from all those irritating telemarketers too. My cell phone was for emergencies and only for emergencies. How soon we forget.

Like he rest of the world, the convenience of having a cell phone defied my own logic and soon I was making and receiving calls that certainly could have waited until I was at home. Why shouldn’t I? Getting them out of the way sure made life at home a lot less busy. I convinced myself that technology was my friend. I drew the line at texting though. I wasn’t going to use it and I surely wasn’t going to pay extra to have it. That was then. This, is now.

A bit about the old English

It is safe to say that after a few months of having a smart phone, I am an amateur texter at best. Having been a student of the English language and an amateur writer, I am still a stickler for grammar and punctuation. My tolerance of people who claim English as a first language, but can’t use it properly is minimal. Granted, English can be confusing. There are so many words that sound alike but are spelled differently and, whose meaning can completely transform a sentence. Oh, yeah, we can’t forget the really complicated words that are spelled the same but have different meanings. Let’s look at a few.

Bear/bare
One is covered in fur and can eat us alive and the other can embarrass us in public.
Hair/hare
One covers our hair and the other hides in a hole.
Tear/tear
One is a drop of water falling from our eyes and the other is a boo-boo in our jeans.
Their/there
One indicates ownership and the other points to a place.

There are dozens of others, but I think you get my point. The English language is not always easy to teach and even as a first language can be confusing.

Back to texting

There are several reasons that I had no interest in texting my primary reason was that I don’t want to learn another language. Let’s face it, if you aren’t going to learn the language of texting, it’s just painful to type full sentences using correct grammar and punctuation on a smart phone keypad. To even admit that I know that means that yes, I have tried texting. It takes me forever.

Remember that I said earlier that technology is my friend? I was so excited when realized that my new smart phone would even allow me to speak to it in grammatically correct sentences and it would translate my voice into a text message. I thought this was the answer to my texting phobia. Not! My southern drawl turns words into non-words and I sent out a few messages that surely made me look like an idiot. In fact, it appeared that all on my own I had created a new version of the English language.

The new English

For months now, I have worried about the future of the English language. I’ve worried about the next generation of young people who don’t know how to spell words like “heart” or “because”. I hear them say things like “She is my BFF.” Or “TTYL” and I have to stop and think what that means. I can still remember the first time someone wrote “ROTFLMAO” at the end of an email. It took me hours of Google searching to figure out what that meant. I thought it was a charitable organization they were referencing. I’m sure that my friend was sitting there LOL when I finally wrote back and asked what ROTFLMAO meant.

There are days when I get messages from intelligent people that are so cryptic that I have to Google a list to interpret them. It’s probably just a sign of my age, but I think about the hours I spent in English classes with teachers who drilled me on the proper use of the language of my country. They instilled in me that proper English was a tool that would advance my career and attract a spouse that could provide for me. OMG They were mostly right.

The Future of English

Maybe it really is my age, but I still find myself wanting to make those teachers proud. The English language meant a lot to them. Of all the college textbooks I had, the only one I kept was the Little Brown Handbook from my English 101 class. It was my Bible in many ways. For all its imperfection, I love my language and like an old dinosaur I am trying to hold on to what I was taught. But, it is a new generation and as every generation knows, things change. The texters of today are rewriting the English language and one day the old standards like the Merriam Webster and the Oxford dictionaries will be rewritten too. Until then, if, like me, you need a guide to interpreting text messages, the list below might help. BCNU

© 2014 Linda Crist

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  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

    I won't lie, Kindred. I have serious concerns about western culture in general. This is one case where technology is increasing the dumb in society...and there are many such cases. This old teacher cringes when he thinks of it all.

    Anyway, you are right on of course, and if I think more on it I'll have a headache. :)

    hugs coming your way

    bill

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    Bill, needless to say, I share your concerns. No headaches today. You have too much work to do. Your hugs are en route.

  • MizBejabbers profile image

    MizBejabbers 2 years ago

    Well spoken, my grammar police friend, but you are a gal of me own heart. What irritates the dickens out of me is the use of text shorthand like “R U blah blah” in everyday usage online and in emails. And I don’t have time to learn all those codes either. I think the young generation thinks it’s cute. But I think that if a person is too darn lazy to spell out plain English, I just may be too lazy to read their Facebook comment or email.

    That’s funny about creating anew language on your smart phone. I know what you mean about speech recognition software. Mr. B never could spell, and he was very thankful to get a phone with it. We both have southern accents, but having been in broadcasting, we try to lose them while texting. Sometimes we do get interesting messages though. His “checking now” did come out “chicken now”, and I’ve noticed a difference when we speak our cat Tas’ name in a text. When he says it the phone spells it “Taz,” and when I say it the phone spells it “Tes”, but we do enjoy using it.

    BTW there is a new buzzword in our state, “Arbonics.” I saw a grumpy editorial writer state that he didn’t know what it meant, but I think it is just a new word for “Arkansaseez” (not sure how you spell that word, I just know we used to use it). I think it’s just a catchall for our Arkansas dialect, you know, like they tried to make Ebonics a proper language for African Americans about 20 years ago. Well, neither is proper English, but I’m sure we will all keep on using the ethnic English of our local for everyday, but I really do hope that electronic usage doesn’t ruin our proper grammar.

    I got a laugh out of your hub, too. Voted up+++ and shared.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    Oh Miz B, this next generation scares me. When I was managing a retail shipping store a few years ago, I had a 26 year old woman come in and ask me how to address the exterior of a business letter. She honestly did not know where to put the return address. Recently, I had a 20-something year old man ask me how to write a personal check. And these are our future care-givers and leaders. Yikes!

  • Trisha Roberts profile image

    Trisha Roberts 2 years ago from Rensselaer, New York

    I love this hub. I completely agree with you on so many levels. I love the resources you have provided. :)

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    Thanks Trisha. I may need those resources more than anyone else who reads this hub.

  • mary615 profile image

    Mary Hyatt 2 years ago from Florida

    Boy, I can sure identify with you on this subject! My kids bought me a smart phone last Christmas because they didn't understand how I could possibly live with my old dumb phone! I used it for two weeks and gave it back.

    I "talk" to my kids and grandkids on Facebook, but half the time I didn't understand what they were saying. One of them made a list for me of the popular abbreviations! The only one I knew was LOL but now I'm catching on.

    I still refuse to text!!

  • Lady Guinevere profile image

    Debra Allen 2 years ago from West By God

    I do not text and I do not have any cellphone or anything like that. I also have a hard time figuring out what the heck they are trying to say. I am finding it a little bit hard to write comments on questions around here as well. We have to truncate everything. Oh that is a new word that is older than dirt. Truncate! I often wonder where we are going in all of this too. Are we headed back to hieragliphics? (sp)...picture pages!! My kinds learned about Picture Page when they were little. Is this another form of phonetics? Maybe I am just getting old.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    Mary615 - Maybe if enough of us stand our ground, this too shall pass. Thanks for the visit!

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    Lady G - you might be on to something. I had not thought about a possible return to the ancient writings of Native Americans, Egyptians, etc. That's certainly worth thinking about. They say history repeats itself. And personally, I like the word "truncate" too. Thanks for the visit and you just stand your ground. I will too.

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

    Linda, what does BCNU mean? I'm not a big texter either, although I do it. It takes me forever! Yesterday I was responding to a text from my mom and I wanted to use the word "hankerin'". My stupid smartphone kept changing it to Clinton! I gave up and added the g to the end of the word.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    Shauna, I just recently learned that BCNU is "be seeing you". How is that for grammar? It drives me crazy. And personally, I don't think my new phone is all that smart.

  • Jackie Lynnley profile image

    Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

    I learned all the new language "English" over the years playing games online with others so if anyone wants to learn it that would be the fastest way I would say. All I have is my land phone and a cell phone though and I rarely us either. My parents have passed and I talk online as you say you do. It really is a changing word and happens without us realizing it. ^+

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    Jackie, thanks for the read and the vote. Games huh? That's a great way to learn the new text lingo. I just heard a new one this afternoon. The acronym for Starbucks is *$. How cute is that? Gosh, I feel like a relic sometimes.

  • someonewhoknows profile image

    someonewhoknows 2 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

    82SaItBtYrt

    You can figure it out!

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

    This is an interesting hub, Linda. It's very amusing, but at the same time it contains some sad truths about the changing nature of the English language!

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    Someonewhoknows - After spending 20 minutes trying, I give up. None of the online translators were helpful and to be honest, this is a perfect example of why I don't have any desire to text. So, IDK and IDC.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    Alicia, thank you very much for the comment. I appreciate that you took time to read this and to leave a comment.

  • Torrs13 profile image

    Tori Canonge 2 years ago from California

    I text but I like to use full words rather than all the crazy letters people type. I can't even understand half of them!

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    Torrs13 - Thanks for the visit. I'm like you, I rarely text but when I do, I use full words and correct grammar. I'll never understand that other language.

  • Radcliff profile image

    Liz Davis 2 years ago from Hudson, FL

    I absolutely hate talking on the phone, so texting has been a blessing! But I just can't learn the text-speak so many use even when they don't have to. I have no idea what people are talking about when they use too many acronyms and abbreviations!

  • torrilynn profile image

    torrilynn 2 years ago

    I agree that slowly but surely the English language is changing. as a society, we are becoming more and more dependent on technology to do things for us instead of doing them ourselves. voted up.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    Radcliff, thanks for stopping by. We really are learning a new language, aren't we? Good luck to you. I doubt I will ever really get it.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    torrilynn, The technology is wonderful as long as it's working. lol

  • someonewhoknows profile image

    someonewhoknows 2 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

    Context has a huge impact on understanding .Unfortunately for many of us the context is not understood or misunderstood. That can cause conflict. For example: "L O L" can mean "lots of love" or " love of life" or "life of love". " I D G T" - I DON'T GET IT" or " I D - G O T - T O R N "

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    someonewhoknows, you have given a perfect example. I thought LOL or lol meant "laughing out loud". Gee, I give up. I'm sticking to my proper English with a little southern slang thrown in. Thanks for the visit though. I learned something, didn't I?

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    someonewhoknows, you have given a perfect example. I thought LOL or lol meant "laughing out loud". Gee, I give up. I'm sticking to my proper English with a little southern slang thrown in. Thanks for the visit though. I learned something, didn't I?

  • Sunardi profile image

    Sunardi 2 years ago from Indonesia

    It's not only happened on English, but also on other languages. Maybe Mandarin, Japanese, and other such writing system do not have text shorthand. The first time I used cell phone, I didn't understand several texting words. In Indonesian, there is a particle "nya", but in text shorthand becomes "x", "sama/with becomes 5", "setuju/agree become se7". People do this because they need to press the button three times to type words like C, F, I, etc.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    Sunardi, thanks for the visit and the education.

  • Chinaimport profile image

    Kamal Mohta 2 years ago from Guangzhou

    Do you really believe that the English language is threatened by some short lived technological invention? SMS and other texting methods are limited to 160 characters (until recently) by tech issues and once it is solved people will go back to expressing themselves in elaborate ways.

    For instance, look at telex and telegraph, popular in early 20th century created its whole range of sub language based on abbreviations. Once faxes and email allowed people to express without being limited by bandwidth issues, things quickly changed.

    I do agree that English as a language is evolving due to rapid globalization. It is natural for language to evolve. Even old English (pre 1600) was different from our standard English, but that did not diminish our society’s ability to produce fine writers after Shakespeare.

    Enjoyed reading your hub. Thanks for sharing it.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    Chinaimport, thanks for the visit. It makes me very sad when I meet young, bright minds that cannot spell simple words like "because". Why can't they spell it? Because they have turned the word into "bc" with texting. I certainly have to agree that language evolves. Maybe I am just getting old and sounding like my mother did when she was this age. lol

  • someonewhoknows profile image

    someonewhoknows 2 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

    8 2 sa it bt y rt - because - "bc" - before chinaimport lol

  • nickico profile image

    Niquel Cozart 2 years ago from New Jersey suburb

    Great article! This gives me a lot to think about with my own children. I am constantly reminding them to put the phones down and I am still seeing drivers texting while driving. There is an addiction actually forming.

  • lrc7815 profile image
    Author

    Linda Crist 2 years ago from Central Virginia

    nickico, I amj afraid we are losing the ability to really communicate with each other. It scares me a little. Real communication involves eye contact and body language, things that an emoticon can't convey. I think about conversations where one person touches the arm of another or their eyes convey the pain of understanding. We all want to be understood, don['t we? I appreciate your taking time to read my article. I agree that we are becoming a society addicted to technology instead of leaning on each other.

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