Okay, I can accept Congrats, combo, and corp, and if I’m forced to mani/pedi. Writers know mag, ms, and zine. But it’s getting to be too much. I’m not even referring explicitly to the incessant abbreviations and outrageous acronyms that have erupted with texting and tweeting jargon, although these recent linguistic mutations add to my shudders.
I’m talking about the lopping-off factor, the indiscriminant word amputation, the syllable-truncation creeping through and infecting our language ever more perniciously, a true mind virus (with apologies to Richard Brodie, author of Virus of the Mind).
Many articles have been written about the pros, cons, and vocabularies of the new lingo spawned by technology (see, for example, Jane Solomon’s “Is Text Messaging Ruining English? Absolutely Not” (http://hotword.dictionary.com/shortening-english/#more-7246). Points on both sides, to be sure.
I can only speak from my own love of language. Words and their power have always thrilled and fascinated me, in writing, reading, and losing myself in the wonders. I never questioned what my college major would be and where my grad school studies would alight; I willingly acceded to the demands of reading, reading, reading (and necessary writing). My doctorate is in English and Comparative Literature.
English—beautiful precise poetic expansive exact ambiguous infuriating rule-making rule-breaking adaptable liquid powerful magnificent English—is in severe danger. Way beyond accepted acronyms, standard abbreviations, and even tweetifications. Even my literary, refined, widely-read author friends have fallen prey. With horror, I read their communications (English translations in parentheses, for the uninitiated or valiantly resistant) about peeps (people), Tweeps (Twitter people), and beep creeps (bad drivers—from a poet friend). One invited me to have a convo about her fav vacay in the GranCan. Did she want to talk about a trip to France or a public restroom? I didn’t ask for deets.
Another colleague recommended the HuffPo. Was she referring to a marathon or a Thai appetizer?
Americans casualize everything, whether saints, revered leaders, revered football players, or revered vapid teen sensations. We give them nicknames, irreverent labels, and single names painfully smelted from two. Maybe the mutilating trend is an offshoot of this casualness and penchant for taking-them-celebs-down-a-peg. Maybe too the mind virus has spread way beyond our national proclivity and borders. One of my British writing friends wrote that the Australian avo (afternoon) was catching on in the United Kingdom.
I’m all for saving time, Lord knows, but how fast do we need to get? Doesn’t anyone have time for one more syllable, or two? I believe our poor English is victimized and suffering silently, without unions or PACs, unable to protest the massive cutoffs of its words.
What if by some Ray Bradburian turn we had to read Paradise Lost in tweetspeak? Or Hamlet? Or John Updike, Margaret Atwood, Dylan Thomas? I shudder anew.
Will we devolve to a one-syllable language? Or merely to a system of grunts, groans, moans, and sighs? I pray for deliverance to the gods of Whole Language. The proliferating choppings wound me phys, intell, aesth, and emo. And make me sc to my stum.
With thanks to CH, DB, and JBB.
Author, editor, writing coach, and spiritual counselor, Noelle Sterne writes fiction and nonfiction, having published over 300 pieces in print and online venues, including Writer’s Digest, The Writer, ReadLearnWrite, Women on Writing, Transformation Magazine, 11.11, and Unity booklets. Her monthly column, “Bloom Where You’re Writing,” appears in Coffeehouse for Writers. With a Ph.D. from Columbia University, for over 28 years Noelle has helped doctoral candidates complete their dissertations (finally), with a practical-psychological-spiritual handbook in progress. In her book Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books; one of ten best 2011 ebooks), she draws examples from her practice and other aspects of life to help writers and others release regrets, relabel their past, and reach their lifelong yearnings. With Trust Your Life, Noelle appears in the Unity Books 2013 “Summer of Self-Discovery.” Discussions appear on Goodreads: http://www.unity.org/publications/unity-books/summer-reading-series, Her webinar on the book of June 26, 2013, can be heard and seen on YouTube: www.youtube.com/watch?V=95EeqllONIQ.