Friday, 15 October 2010

Funny faces and other textspeak

One thing you may have noticed about my posts - and any emails you may have exchanged with me - is that I try hard to write grammatical, correctly-spelled, correctly-punctuated, unabbreviated English. Call me a pedant if you will, but I can't bring myself to murder the language.

So my posts look like essays. And my emails look like old fashioned letters, beginning 'Dear So-and-So...' and they have a proper ending. I like to use a wide, intelligent vocabulary. And I prefer to avoid jargon, acronyms and lewd expressions. I dare say that here and there a few spelling mistakes creep in, but it's not in my nature to be slapdash where written work is concerned. People unsympathetic to me might dismiss my posts as deluded tosh, but they have no grounds to say they are badly written!

Incidentally I'm not claiming any great virtue for myself here. Many other bloggers clearly observe a similar standard. So I wonder how many feel as I do about certain typing tricks that seem to have originated in the early days of phone texting, but have now spread to messages and posts sent out from a desktop machine using a proper keyboard. They are all unnecessary.

I mean for example the irritating use of '4 U' for 'for you' and 'gr8' for 'great', and those strange obscure sideways-on facial expressions such as :) or :( or ;~ which I find so hard to interpret, and acronyms like IMHO (whoever voiced a humble opinion? Or is that an honest opinion? Who can tell?) or LOL (the one I dislike most - does it mean laughing out loud, and if so, in a jovial or jeering manner? Or does it mean lots of love?). Frankly, if you want to say 'Oh My God!' then it has far more impact when written out in full than 'OMG' has. So why not write out the full seven letters and two spaces? It doesn't take any effort, really, and it's not as if you're trying to save paper, is it? Or are you coy about mentioning the Deity?

There is surely something euthemistic about all this abbreviating that veils and softens the  meaning, and hides it from immediate comprehension. What motive would anyone have for being so enigmatic? It isn't clever and it isn't honest. It certainly isn't clear. 

I say away with the whole lot.


  1. Hmm, whilst I try to write correct English, I have no doubt that I fail quite spectacularly some of the time. Especially with spelling.

    What I do use are smilies. :)

    Mainly because the English language relies a lot on emotion to ground your point. 'Interesting' when something is seriously wrong is something that non native speakers struggle with (I'm famous for that in my company now). Or 'Fun' in similar situations. Adding an emoticon (yup they have a name) can point out to those who may miss the sarcasm / humour in what you are writing.

    As for text speak... It winds me up completely. It was lazyness in the early days of mobile phones (I had an early digital phone capable of text, but stuck to English (actually I stuck to calling people rather than texting and still do - it's cheaper for one thing if you answer each other a couple of times) but seems to have stuck as a badge of youth (OMG, that makes me sound old!)

    Abbriviations have always been there, but now they seem more prominent. Maybe it's the Americanisation of the language. You see the same abbrivations coming from American programs and films in Holland too. A Dutch sentence sounds quite odd punctuated with OMG with English letter pronunciation.

    Being a software developer by education I am guilty of using WTF though. In fact we use it as a measure of code quality when looking through others code. WTF's per minute :)


  2. I try to use the abbreviations when I'm texting but I usually get them wrong, much to the amusement of my children.

    I like emails, you can send a short note without too much trouble. I hate to see them with no capitals and poor punctuation.

  3. Guilty as charged, I've been using smilies and initialised abbreviations for a couple of decades. But not LOL or OMG, I do have some standards! They originated not in the texting of Da Yoof, but in the Usenet newsgroups of the 1980s. They made sense there, when your Internet connection might have been a real-time 300 Baud terminal connection nany character saved mattered.

    Now, you are going to hate me for this, the Oxford Dictionary of English has IMHO, LOL, and OMG. What can I say, but :) ?

  4. I'm relaxed about it; but then I'm used to using abbreviations and acronyms... I like it when things like SNAFU become words in their own right, as in 'snafued'... and I enjoyed the use, in 'Fags Mags and Bags', of 'OMG!' as an exclamation, because it is playful, using as many syllables as the original phrase... hey, though, YMMV :-)

  5. I don't deny that some of these abbreviations had a reasonable origin, but they are as irritating and empty as 'Yr obt svt' must have been at the foot of eighteenth-century letters. At least they are not abbreviated Latin or French. We don't seem to use 'viz' nowadays (i.e. - that's 'id est', of course - 'videlicet') and I don't see 'RSVP' ('Repondez s'il vous plait' - can't do the missing accents) at the bottom of invitations any more. Let's be thankful for the demise of such obscurities. I don't mind the ampersand (&): it's always been useful.

    As for emotional indicators, I think they are dangerous and misleading. Is there universal agreement on what they mean? Would your :) mean the same as mine? Would a Mexican :) mean the same as a Japanese :)? These symbols are basically for native Western English-speakers with identical backgrounds. Even then, there is the danger that the meaning drifts and changes, just as words do. As soon as you can use :) ironically or facetiously, you are on thin ice. Suppose you say 'You scumbag :)' to someone. Will they detect the warm humour you intended? What about 'I admire you so much : \' What does that convey? I for one will continue to read the words and the context, and not attempt to guess what the emotion-indicator is trying to say.


  6. Hi Lucy,

    Ok, ICU h8 abbreviations;

    TC xx

  7. There is nothing very new about texting abbreviations. A family man who had served in the war (getting involved in the 1944 D-Day landings in Normandy no less) used to embarrass the young me with all kinds of earthy sayings and quips, mostly derived from Army life. Invariably he'd come out with this when going to a public toilet:


    Sigh. That was around 1965.


  8. ROLF! ME too but I tried to create one yesterday for the hell of it in my last post. BTW how come a classy dame like you does not get RSVP invites while I do? IMHO they oft times slow down communication while you stare at the letters like a difficult crossword clue. As for FTW, OMG how could I bring myself to type that even as an acronym?

    Keep up the standards for us Lucy.

    AWALK, BFN Caroline xxx

  9. zOMG, I can't believe you wrote this!

    Just kidding. :)

    Sorry, yes, I am guilty of using emoticons and some of the abbreviations, although not text speak. I can't even read those. Even though I was an English major, English is a living language, maybe even more than most. The only changes I really object to is when a word with a useful meaning (e.g., disinterested) gets muddled. I like when meaning is enhanced, not lost.

    Of course, it depends on what I'm writing. Even though my blog entries are conversational, they also tend to be grammatically correct, with the occasional sentence fragment, WTF, and :) tossed in.

    I've been using online forums for years and years. I know what most of the abbreviations (like LOL -- laughing out loud) mean, and they don't annoy me. Language is fun, and I am a fun-loving woman. (I held back from putting a smiley in there!)

    Ack, you just edited your post! I was going to say something about "Yr Obt Svt"! Abbreviations are as old as writing.

  10. I don't mind the occasional emoticon, or universally understood acronym, it's the obscure one's that drive me crazy. Some people use so many obscure acronyms and abbreviations, that I feel like I'm reading an unlearned foreign language, and in a sense that's just what I'm doing. Those who do a lot of texting on their mobile phones, seem to be the worst violators.

    Now, what really drives me up the wall, are the incredibly lazy writers, who use no capital letters, punctuation marks, or paragraph breaks. They should all be lined up and shot! ;-)

    As for spelling, most computers have automatic spell check (if you have it turned on). Misspelled words are instantly underlined in red, and a right click of the mouse will give you the proper spelling. Occasionally, the spell checker will not pick up on a misspelled word, usually because it is correctly spelled, but not for the particular usage, so an occasional misspelled word is not a problem, for me. One that I often get wrong, is there vs their. I know the difference, but sometimes in my haste, I will automatically type in their, when I intended to use there.

    Melissa XX

  11. I like your standards. My mother was a schoolteacher and we were taught from an early age the importance of spelling and writing correctly. Acronyms usually drive me nuts, like I'm supposed to know what they mean?



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