Evolving the Language

Years ago, when I was in prep school and just getting my “sea legs” under me, I remember my history teacher entering the classroom in a fluster. He had just sent out an email, and he had managed to misspell a word. He hadn’t caught the misspelling and I’m guessing someone emailed him back, letting him know the error.

He was mortified and went on this tear on how email can make us lazy. The year was 1993 and his small typo seems almost quaint by today’s standards.

With the rise of online chat, instant messages, text messages, and even chat rooms, mistakes once thought horrific are but the norm. Errors are codified into parts of speech. Spelling is all but optional. Grammar is non-existent.

This doesn’t bother me. Language evolves like everything else and I find it interesting to see how our “connected” lives are now affecting our language.

What bothers me is when someone tries to communicate but can’t due to an overflow of misspellings, poor sentence structure, and the like. Here’s one example I may receive during my weekly livestreams:

U r so cool, k qk ques wn nt vid?

The sentence reads: You’re so cool. Okay. Quick Question. When is your next video?

Unfortunately, livestreaming is all about plate spinning. Often times, I am playing a game, monitoring chat, and trying to keep the stream momentum moving forward. When I read something like that, it baffles me.

I have to stop thinking about the spinning plates and decipher what I’ve just been sent.

If things are too hectic, I just skip it and move on. I hate doing this because I want everyone to feel a part of the stream. My other option is to ask the audience for a translation but I hate doing this because I feel like I’m mocking the writer.

My experience is obviously a small sample size. To see if this was widespread, I look over my daughter’s shoulder as she played Minecraft online. Oh my god … the chat was a nightmare. It was like seeing a new language form, loosely based on English.

It was a language based on speed. Often times, the kiddos are moving fast and don’t have time to write complete sentences because if their hands are typing, they can’t control their character. Thus, words, vowels, anything “non-essential” is dropped so the idea can be conveyed as quick as possible without interfering with the flow of the game.

This is the next generation and it will be interesting to see how their communication affects our common language.  In a few years, when you look at their text messages, will you be able to even read them?

And to think my history teacher was upset over one misspelling. I’m guessing he’s none too pleased in this brave new world.

 

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