Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Cyber English

Language— a divine gift given to the human race. I have a strong admiration for language. There are thousands of languages spoken worldwide. I speak two of the top three languages in the world. I look up and take interest in many others.

Frequently, I scroll through my Facebook and Twitter accounts and find myself thinking: “what is our language coming to?” or “what disrespect to the English language…” I am no grammarian, but the English that is used in the online world is ridiculous. The words and shortcuts used online, is becoming a dialect (if I may call it that) of its own. Some of the more famous ones even get taken to the outside world, like “OMG” (oh em gee). More and more, the online slang is being spoken inside schools and among cirlces of friends.
When I attempt to correct or explain English usage to friends and family, I usually get made fun of and called an English geek. I had come to the conclusion that since English was the second language of several of my friends at school, and some of my family, that I was made fun of because they had not mastered the English language. I thought they probably had trouble with it and I was being too harsh. My cousins hated and still hate to read and write. I am the one they call when they have essays to type or letters to write. I always asked myself Why? Why the lack of motivation to look up things? Why not try to read? Like I said, I figured it was because English was not their first language. However, Facebook and Twitter proved me wrong. I have several friends young and old, who write in another language online and still misuse it, even when it is their first language. Not only do they misuse the language, but they over-abbreviate and change the sound/spelling of words—purposely! I have tried asking some of my friends and family members why they do it. The answer is usually “I don’t know” or “because it’s boring.”

 I understand languages have evolved over time. Nevertheless, a huge question remains in my head: “Is the way English is being used today the laziest? And, if so, how much will it truly impact the English language?”
A quick history about language:
English derives from a language called proto-Indo-European which was spoken thousands of years ago. This original language, one of a number in the world, is the parent of various language families such as Germanic, Celtic, Hellenic, Italic, and Indo-Iranian. 1
Each branch developed its own dialects over time and English developed from the Germanic branch. As much as it has changed, we have learned to adapt and learn to keep communicating. The history of the human race lies in writings, stories, and translations that have been passed on through the centuries; it is transported through language. The reason behind the huge changes cannot be pinned. Laziness? Transcription error? Was it the writer or the speaker?

Either I am obsessed with language, or I was born into the wrong family/circle of friends, but I seem to be the only one for miles who respects our language. I find that the further in time I go, the more beautiful the English language was—I mean look at Shakespeare, he appears in theatres, poetry class, and in any English class, in general. Chaucer was also a great, poetic-like master of the English language. I can go on and on, and name several writers who manipulated the English language in such a lyrical way. My list stops some thirty years ago. Who will bear the English of our time into another century?

 I simply can’t find anything romantic or poetic about the online slang; here are some examples: “FML” (f*** my life), “SMH” (shake my head), “Ur” (your), “stankin” (supposed to be stinking?), “da”(the), “dope sesh” (cool session), “rok’d” (rocked), or people using k’s instead of c’s or x’s instead of k's.
Sometimes, I have to google abbreviations and sayings in order to understand. Other times, I keep on scrolling because I am uninterested in seeing how much time a person takes to change our language, when they should be taking the time to write things the way they are supposed to be written. Technological advancements have impacted our daily lives in several ways (that's a whole other story...), but is the way it is affecting our langauge dumbing it down?

1. Treharne, Elaine. Old and Middle English c.890--c.1450. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2010.


  1. Favorite poems and collections by William Wordsworth:

    Poems Referring to the Period of Childhood

    Lucy Gray: or Solitude


    Lines Written in Early Spring

    The Childless Father

    Loving and Liking

    The Green Linnet

    A Wren's Nest

    Lines, composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey, on revisiting the banks of the Wye during a tour.

    Miscellaneous Sonnets: XV. Composed during a storm.

    The Solitary Reaper

    The Norman Boy

    1. I have read Mr. Wadsworth and I did enjoy him.

  2. Aurora;

    I've littered this blog with my complaints about English and about the contempt and disrespect it gets. Refreshing to read someone who agrees and I concur - much of the uniqueness and beauty of it seems to be slipping away resulting in part from the love of talking like a bratty child. If some of the responsibility comes from our school system it also can be pinned on the pro-forma rejection of (and often ignorance of) literature and history.

    I see words as things with a history. I hear teachers insist they're just random sounds. Sometimes I could cry.

    Great post.

    1. Capt. Frog, I too put part of the blame on the school system, lack of funding, political support, and so forth... I am delighted when I find someone like the members of this blogging community who respect and share interest in our language and its importance.

  3. I decided to visit here myself, and learn something of the source of all the acrimonious assaults recently hurled in my direction. What a pleasant surprise to find this item which echoes and supports my own sentiments about the woeful degeneration of our language almost exactly! We really do have more in common than you seem to want to believe.

    Good is good no matter who presents it, so I can do nothing but commend you for publishing this very apt, much needed criticism.

    1. I think most people have much more in common that it seems when looking at the arguments we have over minutia. Of course many denizens of the Zone are quite sick of my bitching and moaning about what's happening in American English.

      But you know, if we didn't have acrimony, we might not have any mony at all.

    2. FreeThinke, I feel the same way sometimes. I open up my internet and find the media has blown up a story or torn apart a person. I open up my Twitter or Facebook and find drama. Sometimes we all need a break from politics and neighborhood drama and feel the need to have a deep thought conversation about the human nature with someone who feels the same way.

  4. Welcome Aurora,

    Glad to have you aboard.

    The reason behind the huge changes cannot be pinned.

    If memory serves (somewhat of an accomplishment at my age), Jacob Grimm took a poke at it. Comparing non-Germanic and Germanic cognates, he formulated a general rule to account for vowel and consonant shifts over time. Here are a few examples:

    Bhrater > frater > brother > BTDT (been there done that)
    Pitr > pater > father > PA (pretty awesome)
    Jna > gnoscere > know > KWIM (know what I mean)
    Grimmr > grimm > GRRR (it means growling)

  5. Ah, brings back memories of studying the Great Vowel Shift in German in around 1400 or so. Then there was a high German consonant shift around 400, if I remember correctly. It's a shifty language.

    Of course the telegraph gave us much more of this "shorthand" for obvious reasons and although it has been argued that it had an effect on the way English sentences became much more concise because of the by-the-word cost of a telegram, the public never adopted it because the public was never directly involved as it is with the ubiquitous smart phone.

    By the way, the use of "impact" to replace "affect" tells me you're much younger than I am. No one is really immune from linguistic drift.

    1. Wise Capt. Frogg (I say wise because you seem like a very experienced writer and thinker), I am very young. My writing has yet to mature; I hope to learn from all of you. I look forward to it.

    2. Dear oh dear - it's Fogg, not frogg, but of course that's not my real name. I've been around a very long time, it's true and nearly everyone is younger than me.

      But yes, I love linguistics and it's nice to talk with others who do.

  6. Aurora,

    A fine and thoughtful post. I think the phenomenon you reference amounts to a kind of degraded romanticism, and by that I mean that all the Twittering and SMS-ing seems meant to encourage "immediacy" and "spontaneity," but without regard for that other capacity humans (not me! I'm only a dinosaur) have, which is reflection. If one reads the English Romantics closely or in fact even cursorily, it becomes pretty clear that they regarded "immediacy" as mostly a product of the right training and approach to life (and poesy). Just blurting out the first stupid thing that comes into our heads doesn't make us great self-expressers, it just makes us look and sound like damned fools. As Wilde said, "Sincere emotion is the origin of all bad poetry." It's also the essence of a lot of really dumb and regrettable text messages, I suspect. Along with alcohol, of course....

    The effect of smart-phones goes farther than just degrading the language; as a teacher, I've had to tell students politely at the outset, "If you're going to be in class, you need to actually BE HERE, not somewhere off in the Twitterverse." Some of them think that just parking their fannies in a seat and then allowing their minds to be distracted by everything that comes onto their little screens amounts to being a student. It does not, and lo! it is an abomination in the sight of the Dinosaur Gods Who Dwell in Perpetual Growling and Roaring upon Sacred Mount Gondwana.

    1. blogging dino,

      While an English student in college, I wrote a paper on the lyrical voice. That paper is where it all began. My analysis on several works of literature from different times is what opened my eyes to the change. I am thankful I had great English professors in college.

  7. "Sincere emotion is the origin of all bad poetry."

    Oscar deserves much more appreciation as a philosopher than I think he gets. Almost as much as a dinosaur, in fact.

  8. Sincerity is everything...once you learn to fake that, you've got it made.

    -Joe Franklin


We welcome civil discourse from all people but express no obligation to allow contributors and readers to be trolled. Any comment that sinks to the level of bigotry, defamation, personal insults, off-topic rants, and profanity will be deleted without notice.