When texting really started to take off, it made some people confused – and angry. Not just because their thumbs were way too big to type on the tiny little keyboards.
All the abbreviations popping onto their screens looked like pure gibberish. LOL. G4N. DRCOWOTO. That’s when the confusion set in.
Once people got good enough at decoding the gibberish to understand what it meant, the anger didn’t dissipate. They were still angry because now they had to work at decoding a bunch of abbreviations.
They were angry because their necks hurt from constantly looking down at the screen to decode those abbreviations. Above all else, they were angry because they were scared.
Scared that this seemingly freakish form of communication was going to send the entire English language spiraling down the tubes.
All those years of learning English grammar, studying Shakespeare, and memorizing the proper spelling of words like “mannequin” and “bologna” were all for naught.
Now people are going to talk in letters and numbers, punctuated by smiley faces that are sometimes winking, smirking or flipped upside down.
But that didn’t happen. Rather than edging out the English language, texting actually added a subset to it. It’s a specialized subset used to communicate more quickly and easily on smartphones.
You can think of it the same way truckers use CB codes to communicate more quickly and easily on CB radios.
Or the way police officers use codes to talk about stray animals, dead bodies and abandoned bicycles in a way that’s both succinct and won’t panic the general public. (After all, you never really know what kind of mass frenzy that might erupt if people were privy to every report of an abandoned bicycle.)
So texting may actually be an enhancement to the language, not a detriment. Research even shows playing around with language and ignoring grammatical rules while texting did not result in youngsters flunking out of English 101.
In fact, studies have found that the kids who texted most frequently tended to score higher on grammar, writing and reading tests. They understood the difference between language they used to text and language expected on a test.
But texting was also shown to have a negative impact when it comes to interpreting and accepting new words. While text-happy college students were fine abbreviating the heck out of words with which they were familiar, they were also quick to reject words with which they weren’t. Didn’t even bother trying to guess what they meant.
Those who read traditional print media were much more open to accepting and interpreting new words, probably because they were repeatedly exposed to a much richer vocabulary than G4N, DRCOWOTO and LOL.
Despite quashing the joy of vocabulary, it does not appear texting is going to send the English language skittering off into extinction. But that doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous in other ways.
Texting is definitely is killing off other forms of communication. Since I’m not a phone person, I’m fine with it replacing long-jabbering phone calls. But it’s kind of scary what it’s doing to face-to-face interactions.
Dating couples sit across from each other and, instead of laughing, holding hands or gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes – they’re totally ignoring each other in favor of texting.
More danger comes from the texting that goes on while driving, walking or – I’ve seen it! – riding a bicycle down the street. At least we’ll know their actions won’t be having much of an impact on our language. And the police can discuss what they find in code, with the shorthand for dead body and abandoned bicycle.