Tuesday, March 23, 2010
The gr8 deb8
Many years ago, I was present while language changed before my eyes.
It was in the sixties; the laser had recently been invented, and I was using one of the first, for research. LASER, as you know, is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, but it soon became a word on its own, subject to inflections and conjugations.
I still remember the first time I heard "lase" used as a verb ("I hope it lases without a lot of realignment;" "it lased for a while, then quit."), and "lasing" as an adjective (How's the lasing action this morning?")
I was astounded that for the first time in my awareness there was a new word, not one rooted in Latin or Greek or any other foundational language.
In the fifty years since, many other changes have taken place: new usage, new vocabulary, new spelling.
It's easy to guess what motivates some of the severely abbreviated language we're seeing these days: using a 3-inch keyboard with 1/4-inch keys that butt against each other with a fingertip that's at least 50% wider. We aim for as few strokes as possible to get the message across.
I read that 82 million people regularly text, and many more email. To accommodate Maddie Porter, my 11-year-old protagonist in the Miniature Mysteries, I've researched and bookmarked netlingo sites.
The main characteristics are
1. Abbreviations and acronyms, such as LOL for laugh-out-loud and BTW for by the way;
2. Letter/number homophones, such as gr8 and b4.
3. Nonstandard spelling, such as luv and cuz.
Texting and email language affect not only spelling, but grammar.
I often omit "I" in emails. For example, I usually sign off, "Hope all is well." With my address in the "from" line, it should be clear who's doing the hoping.
Wonder if the use of subject pronoun will go the way of romance languages. In Italian, "I hope" is simply "spero." No one uses the "io" for "I" unless she wants to emphasize the I, as in: I, of all people hope (and probably you don't).
I (for emphasis) embrace the change.
Most of the changes we see today simplify, rather than complicate, our language, and I see that as a change for the better.
How about you? As writers, do you have your characters speak "correctly" or do you accommodate different ages and usages?
As readers, how do you react to new usage in a book?