Is txt spk gonna sneak into da papers?

Earlier today, a student I’ve taught on blogging workshops tweeted this:

I started writing a reply telling him that, in public, he should be spelling words correctly. His “durin” should be a “during“. Then I stopped, because I wasn’t sure I was right.

I’ve had frequent conversations with a multilingual colleague of mine about language, and how sacred it is. We live in a fussy newspaper world of word pedants: for most newsmongers, text speak is anathema, and correctness is king. But for my 12-year old nephew chatting to his mates on BBM, text speak is second nature. It’s his language.

It’s also a collision of numerous social changes. The world moves very quickly these days, so who wants 200 words when you can make do with 20, or 20 characters when you can have 3? We don’t write letters anymore, we send text messages, which often cost more the lengthier they are.  Inevitably, the message is adapting to the medium.

Add to this the changing vernacular of urban areas over the last twenty years, influenced by decades of immigration taking root, and with it, new slang and vocal timbres. Proper English doesn’t stand a chance.

And it shouldn’t. Things change. Look at this copy of the first newspaper ever published in America, in 1690.

It’s called “Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick“. Six words, of which three have since changed to do away with superfluous letters. The second paragraph includes “beholden” and “herunto”, antiques that would be laughed at if they appeared in a newspaper column today. Each “s” is an extravagant swoosh that arches above and below the letters around it. Beautiful, but dispensable.

And here’s a recent headline from The Sun.

Bruv. Enders. Yup, the headline writer was most likely trying to squeeze the copy into limited space. But I’m sure very few people flinched when they saw it, other than broadsheet sub-editors.  It’s a story that enthralled teenagers across the country, and I bet none of them flinched. If anything, it might have made the story more likely to come into their orbit than a finely-tuned, syntax-perfect alternative.

Languages changes, and always will.

But yes, Joe, for now, should be wary of skipping his “g”s. He’s an aspiring journalist who needs abide by the foibles of his prospective employers, however old-fashioned they might be. But I wonder if the same will apply when he’s the prospective employer?

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One response to “Is txt spk gonna sneak into da papers?

  1. Pingback: –via @zthomae | Betteridge's Law

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