Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Text Message Shorthand and It's Effect on the Thumb and the English Language

I don't know if you noticed or not, but the Polar Bear Periodical has been seriously lacking in blog contributions during the month of September and October. Finding time in a day that only has 24 hours is extremely hard for a polar bear that requires, food, hibernation, and a thought provoking daily contribution to social networking. So in the interest of saving time and avoiding any real responsibilities in my life, I've decided to take a closer look into shorthand, specifically in regards to thumb-thumpin' chain texters.

Seeing as how the thumb is the ugly fat guy of all the fingers, it seems fitting that it would be the reason that we've come up with txt msg shorthand. Mr. Thumb has been living a life of social rejection ever since humans stopped climbing trees and holding hammers. No more thumb-sucking; that will give you bucked teeth. No more thumbing for a ride; that could give you some guy with bucked teeth that kills you. No more thumb-wrestling and certainly no more twiddling of the thumbs. Just about the only things left for a digitally and socially outcast thumb to do is to turn your music up and to send quick text messages. The other sexy fingers could dance on the keyboards of our lives, touch-typin' through news feeds, email's and digital diaries like Doogie Howser M.D. But the low-slung thumb digit says, "Use me, Use me. Quit letting me dangle here in the tiny fob pocket of your skinny jeans. I'm filled with texterity, I want to be textually active. I promise I won't give you texter's remorse, just good ole fashioned textertainment."

We'll we've been in such a hurry to send our text message we have not realized what it's been doing to our English language. LMAO, LOL, BRB... Text message shorthand reigns in the cellular airwaves and summons the peasants of sentence structure to bow before it's emoticon throne. As our thumbs have gained prominence in "shorthand legislation" the language rules have evolved quicker than Cortisol into belly fat.

Apparently, a mobile phone service in Britain has given text message shorthand a big boost in language development by saying that is useful in learning classic literature. Classic literature? "How dare you?!" says the writer. "Un-freakin'-believable. First, electric wheelchairs for the elderly, and now this? What is this nation coming to." Believe it or not, Dot Mobile is attempting to translate classic works of literature into abbreviated SMS text messages. "Romeo, Romeo, Wher4 RT Thou Romeo!"
They have researched this avenue of ad campaigning immensely and even have an English professor in their corner named John Sutherland, who says that it could act as a useful memory aid for students who want to learn the classics by helping them "filet out the important elements in a plot." Take a look at some of these traumatizing translations.

Hamlet's famous soliloquy, "To be or not to be, that is the question," becomes "2b? Nt2b? ???"
John Milton's epic poem, Paradise Lost, begins, "devl kikd outa hevn coz jelus of jesus&strts war." (The devil is kicked out of heaven because he is jealous of Jesus and starts a war.)
The ending to Jane Eyre — "MadwyfSetsFyr2Haus." (Mad wife sets fire to house.)
Jane Austen's description of Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice becomes "fit&loadd" (handsome and wealthy).

BTW, As you may have imagined there are naysayers. Author and political commentator Oliver Kamm reminds us that classic literature is more than just plot. "What you lose with text messaging in literature is what makes literature what it is — the imagery, the irony the nuance." He considers this project "a travesty."

A project like this will obviously have to be headed up by the thumb. You can't very well use text message shorthand without the thumb. The long sexy fingers won't stoop to type out such crap. Therefore news of this travesty have thumbs everywhere registering for concealed weapons permits or jumping from 15th floor apartment windows.

Here's my thought. Text message shorthand, has it's uses but it isn't to teach classic literature. It does save time and actually exercises that puzzle solving part of our brain. Who needs crossword puzzles when we have, "WDYMBT". I for one do not stand by a classic work of literature being thumbed out on a tiny keyboard somewhere in the back alleys of Liverpool, but I do appreciate a little time saving note or two when things are crazy so I don't have to deal with the menial task of actually talking to someone on the phone. What a bore!

One bright note in the midst of all this text purgatory is Autocorrect. Autocorrect? Yes, Autocorrect. As well as provide hours of entertainment on the internet, reading embarrassing textersations, Autocorrect is also doing a lot to bring us out of the dark ages of text message shorthand. It will actually complete words for us (whether we want it to or not) turning a letter or two into a possible suggestion for what you want to say. It's a writer's dream! Genius! Unfortunately, the autocorrect dictionary includes some text message shorthand which kind of defeats the purpose, but it's a step in the right direction.

We live in an age where fast and tiny nanotechnology keep us moving like kids without Ritalin. As a result we cut things short only reading half of the email or yearly Christmas card update and responding with such brevity that God can't even figure out what we mean. Stop it. Take a moment in your crazy life to soak in a few extra words a day. Perhaps consider a punctuation mark or two in your text message to help clarify. It might take an extra few seconds out of your day but you and the English language will be better off for it. So thank you for reading this blog in it's entirety and feel free to leave a comment with some ridiculous text message short hand.


1 comment:

  1. I agree with you on this. These abr. are driving me crzy cuz half the time I can't figure out what they are. I have to ask one of my kids to tell me what they are before I understand the txt msg.