Wednesday, June 07, 2006

"Adios, apostrophe"

The horror!

The Internet is reinforcing bad English habits started during the linguistically lackadaisical '60s and '70s, [Naomi Baron, professor of linguistics at American University in Washington, D.C.] says.

"There are other social forces affecting languages that make them far more informal than it used to," she says, citing the decline in formal tone and grammatical discipline set in motion in public education during the feel-good, express-yourself-as-you-will, don't-be-hampered-by-the-Man-with-the-red-pen hippie era.

"The Internet reinforces that," Baron says.

(He-he. Hippies.)

This is a good piece from Jen Gerson of the Toronto Star on the changing nature of the English language. I know that all languages evolve, but I lament any decline in punctuation in English. The properly placed mark can make all the difference in meaning, and I’m for more punctuation if it clarifies the message. Heck, I even prefer to use the optional comma before “and” in a series.

But, there is still hope for the language.

But Baron says that the day of abbreviating phrases and encrypting communication is ending.

She has found that while coded language is common among young teenagers, once a given person becomes more confident with typing and computers, the abbreviations and corruptions are abandoned.

The reason is simple: It often takes more time and effort to decode abbreviations than it does to spell out phrases in full.

I’ve often thought the same. What’s the point of “ROTFLMAO”? I can type the entire phrase as quick as it takes me to hold down the shift key with one hand and peck out the letters with the other. And how much does it actually add to “LOL”? Not much, I think.

I think Baron’s right. As people mature, they tend to put aside childish ways of thinking, acting, and—thankfully—writing, and they spell out words and use punctuation more. That’s good for our beautifully complex language.

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