Say what?

Some worry about infiltration of text-message-speak beyond the vernacular

Some worry about infiltration of text-message-speak beyond the vernacular

April 08, 2007|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

No longer is the language of text-messaging limited to cell phones and computer screens.

Now, many teens are using text-message phrases out loud.

"I hear that all the time in the hallway at school," said Laura Bell, 15, of Hagerstown.

So, instead of saying "Oh my god" out loud, in a normal conversation, you might hear someone say "OMG." Or instead of someone saying something was funny - or laughing -you might hear them say "LOL." (For those who don't know, "LOL" means "laughing out loud.")

"I think it's annoying," said Laura, a freshman at North Hagerstown High School.

For nearly a decade, the text-messaging has caused forehead wrinkles for English professors and language purists. They cringed at e-mails with text-messaging's signature short-hand: the letter "u" in place of the word "you" and other adaptations of the English language by users too busy to spell things out completely.

But now text message-ese seems to be infiltrating the spoken word.


Laura and the other teens interviewed for this story are all correspondents for Pulse, the section in Tuesday's Morning Herald and Daily Mail where teens provide stories and photos. The Pulse writers weighed in on this new trend during one of their weekly meetings.

"OMG, LOL, I say stuff like that, but not all the time. Only when I want to joke," said Sally Newlin, 15, of Hagerstown, a sophomore at North Hagerstown High School.

Sally said she mostly hears people talk this way at anime conventions.

So, OMG, wht wld happn if evry1 strted tlking and wrting lk ths?

"The general view is that permanent language change is usually for the better, otherwise we'd all be speaking Old English, which is a horribly ugly language," said Joan Johnson, chair of the English and Humanities Division at Hagerstown Community College.

But text message-ese would be a change for the worse, Johnson said. "It lacks clarity and causes confusion. It's disturbing on one level."

Johnson said the vernacular of text-messaging has already infiltrated the written language of her students, but Johnson said she has yet to hear it in their speech.

"I've seen it in essays," Johnson said. "When I ask them (about it) they get embarrassed because they do it so much they're not even aware."

Al Wunderlich, 15, said he's never heard people using the language of text-messaging in verbal communication.

But Wunderlich, who is home-schooled and lives south of Hagerstown, said sometimes he has to break a few habits when writing formal papers.

"I lower case everything," he said. "But I know the difference."

Learning text message-ese

You might not hear these in verbal conversation, but you might see them in an instant message or text message. Listed below are a few phrases mentioned in a 2003 University of Washington study that examined the linguistic forms of 544 participants' text messages and investigated 159 teenagers' use of text-messaging.

gr8 = great

1td = wanted

ne1 = anyone

12 = want to

1s = ones

2mor = tomorrow

b4 = before

m8 = mate

hm = home

mt = meet

Example: ne1 + 12 + mt = "Anyone want to meet?"

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