Thursday, February 7, 2013

Damaging linguistic development while promoting indolence

Over the years I have come to a sad realization. Am I the only one who thinks nowadays a bad thing by virtue of being done by a vast majority becomes a good one? The very thing you knew to be bad while you were growing up has suddenly become so widely used its even gone past the stage of being the ‘in thing’ but is very common and somehow good, correct or acceptable. A million examples spring to mind but I will stick to one.

During the early 2000s, while I was at boarding school, I would write a letter to my parents; dot the I’s and cross the T’s hell even punctuate properly. Somehow that all changed when I would write notes to my friends; you turned to u, I to i, for to 4…the list was not endless back then. It’s 2013 and one can now write a complete sentence whose construction is entirely made up of abbreviations and the world will have no problem reading and understanding in the wink of an eye. It was improper, back in the day, to pride yourself in writing or speaking slang. I would not dare speak slang if my parents were within earshot lest they heard me and instructed me to grab a book by Jane Austen, Harper Lee, Charles Dickens or Emily Bronte to name a few of the writers whose books were ostentatiously exhibited on my father’s overburdened bookshelf.

There was a time when people took pride in learning shorthand or taking typing speed tests. In the long run, this benefited professionals differently in their lines of work. But now who cares about shorthand when two can hold an entire conversation without spelling a single word correctly but enjoy more or less the same convenience as would those using shorthand.

Now that millions have taken to writing in slang and textese (also known as txt-speak, txtese, chatspeak, txt, txtspk, txtk, txto, texting language, txt lingo, SMSish, txtslang, or txt talk) which urban dictionaries have augmented this improper way is now viewed by many as ‘proper’. Textese language varies from place to place and is largely affected by dialects of the users. For instance Ndebeles and Zulus would write sure as sho while Pedis and Tsongas type xo. The list of vernacular words that have been caught in the textese whirlwind is endless. Textese language has turned bad grammar into good and defeated the purpose of writing correct spellings. I grew up under the impression that construction of a text is as important as the message it bears. As a result I cringe at messages such as ‘luv u’, ‘miss u’, and ‘hud’. If what you are saying matters then have the decency to write it correctly. What reason is there for shortening a three or four worded sentence? Unless of course you are sending an SMS via mobile phone and you have used all 160 characters.

Towards the end of 2012 I visited a renowned bookshop in Polokwane’s Savannah Mall. I must say every bookshop is different from the next and for me that is where their distinct beauty lies. As I walked out of that bookshop I made a vow that from every country or historical city that I visit I will buy a book and dedicate it to my future children and treasure them with the hope that they will do the same one day. At the rate at which use of correct English is fading away I hope that one day my children will read books that I have and those that I am still to collect. This way they will have a better appreciation of the queen’s language, something which this generation lacks.