Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Cyber Shorthand

Rules, rules, rules. A perverse person can get really tired of rules sometimes. Having grown up among people who commonly said ya’all or yaal or ya’al or yawl, I never learned how to spell that contraction meaning “you all” or “all of you”. It was considered adequate communication of the region. I like it far more than saying “all of you” or “you folks” or “you people”. After moving to another region that commonly uses yuz or youse, or you’s meaning more than one of you, a non-native, English-speaking person could get confused.

This, however, isn’t intended as a study of linguistics. After four years of high school grammar and spelling and writing, followed by a B.S.(seriously) as an English major, I had learned lots of rules, and even after my thorough indoctrination, my speech still doesn't sound quite "Shakespearean."

I like grammar rules far more than the next person and generally try to follow most of them but only for the sake of accurate communication. Isn’t that what words are all about anyway? I will admit to cringing when I hear “ain’t.” I have to resist railing about the decline of literacy when I see a small “i” in e-mail when the writer intended the pronoun “I”.

Acronyms seem to have taken over the world of e-mail and forget texting. LOL! I simply can’t bring myself to try to communicate using “u r a —”. I get a bit uptight when other people use those abbreviations and shorthand, but I have to admit, I get lazy too, especially when I am rushed. The rebel in me grows horns and I dig in my heels too when someone wants to demand that I use various conventions like proper grammar and punctuation. I have discovered that misspelled words bother me more than poor grammar and punctuation, especially when they are seen in places where the writer should know better. Turnpike signs: “Busses Welcome”. Poor example, because that is probably the British spelling. Grocery store sign: “Stakes $3.95″. Do they sell to meat eaters or vampire slayers? My biggest pet peeve of incorrect usage is the “it’s” when the person really means “its”. It is not so complicated, or a possessive. The apostrophe takes the place of the letter “i” in the word “is” so that “it’s” always means “it is”.

Therein lies the difference in my outlook and that of some who make a practice of texting on cell phones. I think I know the difference and the correct spelling or rule, whereas it seems to have become a language that those who use it want to use as a shorthand or different language to fool others who don’t know the current fad expressions. Personally, it strikes me that they don’t know the correct words or spelling when they have to use some method of communication other than an expensive “charge by the letter” texting cell phone. How can they go to a job that has a boss who requires a written report requiring formal English written on real paper for the Board of Directors? Are they able to put aside their “second language” and use conventions that were used before they were born?

On the other hand, if someone reminded me to use proper English,it would annoy me and I would, perversely, misuse it again. People are so quirky. English is a great language because we can play with it and enjoy it whether we use it correctly and make puns, or use it incorrectly, and communicate exactly what we mean in spite of incorrect usage. The point is: we have to be able to do both. That’s the new world order.

I know all of those rules, but sometimes I, too, think enough with the rules already. Then I remember the college class that tried to decipher the real words and meaning of things written in Middle English. I can understand how the language would evolve to a form that is unrecognizable two hundred years from now. Our legacy to our progeny will be that they will need a “Rosetta Stone” to understand what we are trying to communicate to the ages. Maybe that is why “History repeats itself”. “Those who can’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” If they can’t understand our lessons, they will have to learn for themselves. “Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.” Maybe we are doing our progeny a disservice. Or maybe in the world of tomorrow, our descendants will have no need of our forms of communication. They will have devices only science fiction writers dream about today. Maybe they will have mental telepathy. Is that cyber shorthand or cyberspeak?

Anyone can speak properly and write in a fashion that can be read today or two hundred years from today without translation software. It isn't hard when a few basics of grammar usage are observed.