It almost feels like a prerequisite for being a curmudgeon to rail against text-speak, emojis, emails and all other forms of modern communication which are, slowly but surely, heralding the destruction of the English language.
It has been a Godsend to those who are either too lazy to spell or punctuate properly, or who don’t know how to do either because now it doesn’t matter, and just in case the last vestiges of guilt still remain lodged in your heart and mind that what you’ve just written is an affront to articulate, intelligent discourse, simply finish your correspondence with ‘LOL’ or a smiley face and everything will be forgiven and forgotten; sometimes it seems like we live in a world where people are permanently laughing out loud.
I have to confess that I have used smiley faces in the past but stopped when the sense of self-loathing threatened to overwhelm me.
So maybe it doesn’t matter how many mistakes litter a text between two friends, or how many text-speak abbreviations are included, but I feel that accepting this is just putting us on the slippery slope to illiteracy. Job applications and other official forms or even just general communication are now littered with mistakes, all of which are embarrassing and most of which are avoidable.
Texting is mainly to blame. I watch my children speed-typing on their phone, and while their dexterity is impressive, I know that what is eventually sent is, in all probability, gobbledygook. As for emails, they’ve become an integral part of our daily lives, and while I have become as reliant on them as everyone else, I believe their introduction heralded the first assault on ‘proper’ English (ie: spelling, grammar, punctuation).
And what is it with apostrophes? Does no-one know how to use them any more? If in doubt, leave it out. That’s always been my advice. That way, the person reading what you’ve written may well surmise that it’s just been an oversight on your part not to include an apostrophe. Using them incorrectly, however, is merely drawing attention to your grammatical fallibility.
There is probably not enough time left to point out to people their mistakes, and even if I did, there’s little chance they’re going to take it on board … Did you see what I did there? No? I rest my case.
Our ability to communicate is one of the most important skills we have, first through the spoken word and then through writing those words down. I know that language has evolved over many centuries and will continue to evolve in the centuries to come, and it does fascinate me how different languages can all say the same thing, even though you might only understand one version, but regardless of this inevitable evolution, we should still hold on to the rudiments and not casually destroy them in the name of modernity, expediency or just sheer laziness.
There is an argument that text-speak is actually a language in its own right rather than representing a decline in people’s competency with their native tongue, but I’m not really convinced by that, and it sounds like a flag of convenience for creeping illiteracy.
More alarming is the fact that things like ‘LOL’ and ‘OMG’ can now be found in the Oxford English Dictionary. ‘GTF’ is what I say to that. New words appear in the dictionary while others vanish forever, and many words have changed their meaning over the years. For example, many of the characters in Charles Dickens’ novels ejaculate during conversations, though thankfully it’s just a figure of speech and not a worrying 19th century medical condition; I’m sure plenty of Victorians would have had cause to ‘LOL’ if the latter had been the case.
Yet, even as I grumble about this subject, I fear that my words will fall on deaf ears, and that I have as much chance of reversing this inexorable linguistic deterioration as King Canute had of commanding the tide to stop.
And before anyone starts to write an email to me, pointing out any errors they’ve spotted in this piece, I will offer my standard defence … there’s only one infallible Catholic in the world, and it’s not me.
You can email [email protected] with your thoughts, observations and smiley faces (though I will know that I’m better than you if you sign off with ‘LOL’!).