L-R Emmy (lying down), Drama, Kendra, Savannah & Teya

26 September 2013

The End of the Word as We Know It

No – that is not a typo – I did mean ‘word’ and not ‘world’. Though with today’s smart phones, mini/virtual keyboards, autocorrect and text speak you’d be forgiven for thinking so.

I used to hear my dad malign the ‘current day’ education system (my current day – think somewhere back in the 70’s and early 80’s) stating that they weren’t teaching us the important things any more. ‘In my day we learned…’ Well at least we were still learning phonics, sentence structure and proper grammar. Spelling, grammar and English were ‘my thing’. I aced those subjects. Even at a very young age I was an avid reader and had little time for authors who couldn’t use language properly (the exceptions being, of course, where it was misused in context). I was also potentially a bit of a know-it-all with a bad habit of correcting everyone (oops). I prefer to view it as an early presentation of OCD.

By the time I finished high school they had thrown phonics out the window and were teaching by ‘memory’. In my early 20’s some young teens I was working with, who had been diagnosed with learning disorders, bought themselves ‘Hooked on Phonics’ and (shock-horror) their grades went up and so did their self-esteem, and already I was starting to sound like my dad.  ‘In my day we learned…’

In Grade 10 (age 15 for people in different school systems) I learned to touch-type on a manual typewriter, and then in grades 11-12 we got to move onto an electric (with a ball!). I was jealous when the year behind me got to start on electric typewriters and missed out on the manuals. By the time my youngest brother reached high school (7 years younger than me) they were using computers from the off, but I’m not sure that proper touch-typing was taught any more.  If it was, it doesn’t seem many actually used it then (or now). I’m grateful for having learned that way, and being able to type 80-110wpm is a skill I’m proud of – on an actual keyboard…

I managed to miss the computers that filled rooms and required punch cards by about 2 years, but our home computer (mostly for games and a bit of word processing) was a Commodore 64. Those of us who could touch type were able to really fly on the keyboards then. Even the two finger (or two plus a thumb) typists were able to catch up some. Then followed the real explosion – the rush of IBM’s, Mac’s and PC’s, the internet, laptops, notebooks, netbooks, tablets, shrinking physical sizes, growing storage requirements, cell phones as big as bricks, cell phones smaller than your palm, texting and now smartphones (back to bigger sizes with the smartphones).

Language itself seems to have devolved while technology has evolved. Yet again I find myself sounding like my father did at my age, criticising education, society, the young. I don’t mean to really; it’s meant more as an observation. Having moved from Canada to the UK and having become aware that the language, dialect and accent can change from county to county. city to city, or in fact even a mile down the road has broadened my thinking, experience and tolerance for different ‘forms’ of language. Canada is a country that, west of Quebec, pretty much has the same accent and dialect throughout, and while I understood the existence of regional accents/dialects (north, south, east, west) across in the US, the UK pretty much blew my mind!

However, I digress. What really prompted this post (with all of its background – note its not it’s) is that it seems we have lost the ‘art’ of the written word, and we have become very lazy with it. I blame ‘text-speak’ to begin with. Phone companies were charging for a maximum number of characters per message, so people had to cram what they wanted to say into the smallest numbers of characters. In addition, using numeric keys to write words was a pain. I ‘get’ that. I am on record (there is actual video footage where you can hear me texting in the background) as the slowest person in the world to ever send texts – and that was using predictive text. But do we really need to carry it into every day life? Cmon ppl ur gr8 enuf not 2 nd 2 do that. (Ooh, I cringed typing that). Now we have smart phones and actual Qwerty keyboards, and unlimited text plans. We could easily go back to using full words and sentences, but the text-speak has stuck.

I manage/moderate a couple of online forums and read several more, and my OCD (especially with regard to written language) kicks in on a regular basis. I have relatively successfully forced myself to accept spelling errors and grammatical errors, and bad punctuation (and just plain typos). For the most part I’m good at ignoring them (or correcting them in my head and moving on), however I draw the line at text speak. I just feel it has no place there - or even on Facebook for that matter. And reading text-speak from people my age or older is just plain weird. It’s probably just me, and I’ve probably lost most of you by now, but I promise you this is going somewhere.

Keeping in mind everything I’ve said above:  I love language, I respect grammar, sentence structure, punctuation and spelling, hate text-speak except where absolutely necessary, love typing and writing… I finally broke down and got a smartphone. In my case it was an iPhone, though the Blackberry (with actual rather than virtual keyboard) was up there for a while. I was SO grateful for a Qwerty keyboard. No more stupid numbers and hitting buttons two or three times for the letter I wanted, no more having it predict words I never intended. It was going to be GREAT (not gr8).

And now I am the bane of my own existence. For some reason (eyesight getting poor with age, fingers too clumsy, stupid virtual iPhone keyboard in general) I cannot seem to hit the right letters a good proportion of the time. I hit an ‘o’ and it becomes an ‘i’, I hit an ‘e’ and it’s an ‘r’, an 's' becomes a 'd' (I'm constantly 'do dorry'). The iPhone is great, it makes suggestions and has an autocorrect, and a lot of the time it works in my favour (I can leave out apostrophes and it will put them in – it saves me changing keyboard levels). Unfortunately it also is wrong half the time, so I now have a combination of ‘user error’ (aka me hitting the wrong keys), and iPhone interpretation (iPhone correcting words that I AM typing correctly and it thinks I don’t want, or iPhone correcting the words I misspelled into words that make no sense in the context). On a dog forum ‘I live my digs’ can probably be interpreted to mean ‘I love my dogs’ by anyone who has the same autocorrect issues with their smartphone/tablet, however in the real world no one would have a clue - or else think I was making a very pathetic attempt at being ‘cool’.

The result is that while I was bad enough editing and re-editing any posts I wrote on the forums before, I am now obsessive about it. From a regular keyboard there might be the odd typo, or I might decide to reword something for clarity (I tend to babble if you haven’t noticed). Often that would mean a couple of quick edits after typing. Not now. Now if I write from the phone I will proof it as much as I can on that little tiny screen, then I will hit send. Somewhere between hitting send and reaching the forum it becomes pure nonsense. I have had entire sentences where even I, who wrote the darn thing, cannot make out what I’ve tried to say. And now ‘I’m’ the one who’s grammar needs to be ignored, who’s typos and ‘autocorrects’ need to be interpreted, and I’m sure there are people out there thinking ‘my gosh that woman needs an education’. So now, instead of a couple of quick edits, I go back and fix and edit and resave a dozen or more times (while being thoroughly shamed by myself). And it seems I have become that which I despised.

So it’s the end of the word as I know it (and I don’t feel fine).

ps:  For a quick laugh at my expense here's a screen grab of a text between myself and a friend where I was using the slang 'ta muchly' for 'thank you very much' (see I can actually use 'silly speak' in every day talk).  This is what the iPhone mangled it into.

pps:  Feel free to have further laughs at my expense.  While I've tried very hard to ensure there are few to no grammatical errors in this post I'm sure I've missed several.  (I did it on purpose to see if you were paying attention.  Yes I absolutely did.  That's my story and I'm sticking to it!)

1 comment:

  1. Well,as I've said before (B4?),I do not have a "smart" phone ,or any device that claims to know better than I what I intended to say. (I was also an English major,spelling champ,and all that rot! ) It makes certain people crazy that I say "To whom am I speaking?", "it would behoove you to..", and "Let me peruse",; I also will admit to being a "Grammar Police(person)", bad typist,and complete non-texter. (I nearly lept from my seat one day when a "pre-teen" said to the "pre-teen" sitting BESIDE her, "I just sent you a message." !) But..I quite often say "Thank you muchly." :) and in my "Beatles" days my mother was sure I had forgotten how to spell "love" and "mom"!
    Thankfully,I have the good sense to (usually) correct under my breath! :)
    (Note,I will generously use icons,similies and LOL ..my one concession to
    computer speak!)