Thursday, March 09, 2006

Understanding the SubTEXT

Call me when UR done.

This is the text message I just sent to a friend.

Did I really just use UR?

I feel so dirty right now.

I have to admit, ever since I bought a new, fancy-pantsy cell phone, I’ve been seduced by this text messaging/picture mail stuff. In fact, just the other night, I may have cajoled a slightly drunk spiceboy into putting on a pair of yellow sweatpants with the word pink spelled out across the ass, snapped a picture of him w/ my camera phone, and promptly mailed it off to a friend, along with a text message.

Sorry, spiceboy.


When I’m texting, which is not often, I usually try to construct messages that resemble written English and not hieroglyphics. But the more I do it, the more impatient I get. After all, text messaging is so cumbersome, and the only way you can really use it quickly and efficiently is to forsake all of the rules of grammar and spelling and just go for it.

As an editor, I don’t think I can abide by this method any longer. I just can’t become part of a world in which great becomes gr8 and you are becomes UR. As impatient as I am to get my point across, I just can’t join a technological phenomenon that’s based on spelling things incorrectly.

Call me a fuddy duddy. Call me a Luddite. Call me a nerd. I am all of those things, and that’s okay. I owe it all to my third grade teacher, Mrs. Hall. She was tough as nails, and very proper. She always used to say things like, If at first you don’t succeed, try try again and Do unto others as you would have them do unto you and Good students have good posture, so sit up straight!

Mrs. Hall was a stickler for proper spelling and grammar, and she harbored a particular hatred for the word ain’t.

“It’s not a word and you shouldn’t use it,” she would often say, pausing in the middle of a lesson at the blackboard and brandishing her piece of white chalk at the class like a wand, or a sword.

When she would turn back to the chalkboard, the boys would make their voices high and mocking and say: Ain’t ain’t a word so I ain’t going to say it. Then they would dissolve into giggles.

Mrs. Hall was not amused.

In the here and now, ain’t has a permanent place in the American Heritage Dictionary (though many English teachers don't accept this) and even third graders are adept at text messaging. I have to wonder if they’re out there right now, giggling and sending this message back and forth to one another during class:

8nt 8nt a wrd & I 8nt gonna say it!

I’m sure that Mrs. Hall is long gone from my old elementary school in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. She might even be long gone from this earth. But wherever she is, I’m sure of one thing:

She is not amused.

As of today, I'm jumping off of the texting bandwagon. From now on, it’s back to conversational basics for me.



Blogger Fig said...

Just found your blog- somehow- hmm... how did I end up here? I was link-hopping and, much like while in college- haven't the faintest clue how I got here. Heh. Gotta say, love your writing- thanks for the chuckles.

4:34 PM  
Blogger Rachel said...

I am on your side!

7:31 PM  
Blogger Paperback Writer said...

Yes, even though it takes me forever to get my message across in a text, I will ALWAYS spell it out. ALWAYS.

9:43 PM  
Blogger jo said...

haha! i'm sorta anal like that too... it annoys me when people text message using such short forms. i mean there's a dictionary in the phone, use it! unless it serves a purpose of making the word shorter like 'u r' instead of 'you are' i don't understand why on earth would people substitute 'me' with 'mi'??
ryc: no typo there... i really did have 10 drinks in 1.5 hours. it was crazy.

10:54 PM  
Blogger mutts said...

I really hate text speak but fear in the future it will be placed in the dictionary.
Think 'nice' originally meant not very bright. Now look at it!
I just can't spell to save my life.
Great blog btw.
tee hee

4:59 AM  
Blogger Style Girl said...

i'm with paperback writer! i'm a spell-it-out kind of girl! thanks for the laugh, i needed it!

8:33 AM  
Blogger Katy said...

Oh man, this post made my morning. Sometimes I feel like I don't even speak the same language as my texting friends. I actually had to Google KWIM because I had no idea what my sister was asking me last week.

9:44 AM  
Blogger tina said...

Ugh, I feel your pain. Before I moved to Prague I'd never sent a single text message in my life, but here it's almost the only way people communicate, I swear. So I've sent way more than my fair share of texts...but I won't use the little shortcuts either. That would just be going too far.

10:20 AM  
Blogger Paperback Writer said...

Style Girl: Perhaps we should begin a revolution. The revolution of spelling things out, of being gramatically correct and saying what we really mean.

It could change society for the better!

Katy: Okay, I have no idea what KWIM. So, what is it? And is it just me, or is it the younger set who abbreviates everything?

11:24 AM  
Blogger kate.d. said...

sometimes, i find trying to figure out the little acronyms kinda fun - like a mini mental exercise! i'm guessing KWIM means "know what i mean?"

but i could be wrong.

i've only attempted to send one text message in my life, and when i was 90% done i accidentally cancelled it. i'm never trying to send one again.

11:45 AM  
Blogger artdetective said...

I'm totally with you. I can understand why people might abbreviate text messages, but I cannot fathom why it is necessary in e-mails. Grr.

I'm also not a big fan of extraneous apostrophes, the use of "your" instead of "you're" and, of course, "definately." But I digress.

6:46 PM  
Anonymous Leslie said...

I'm with you...although I must confess a secret fondness for "btw."

Actually, given that I use it constantly I guess it's not that secret.

7:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Text messages really bother me for some reason. A bunch of my friends have had really bad experiences with guys they've dated and text messaging; misinterpretations of words, projected feelings, etc. This may sound crazy but I've never sent a text in my life. I've received, yes, but I just can't bring myself to type back... just CALL me, damnit!

2:09 AM  
Anonymous Windmills of Mind said...

Ohh I totally agree with this jargon spoiling everything. Specially, what paperback mentioned. They would use "mi" or "moi" instead of "me". Pants!!

I have been using text extensively for about 4-5 yrs now and the only time I shorten stuff is when sending international when you pay for each text ;-)

8:12 PM  

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