What Is the Future of English? Is It Becoming Weblish?
Where is the English language going? Is it turning into Weblish, a kind of internet slang?
Of course English is a product of many spelling and grammar accidents that got all of us to the 21st century, but it seems like the internet is changing the language beyond recognition.
If you have seen any of my grammar hubs, you might be thinking that I’m going to dive off on some diabolical soap-box about the destruction of the English language.
I’m not. In fact, I’m going to tell you that I might even embrace some of these changes. It’s actually quite entertaining to think about where the English language might be going.
If you look many an online article, you’ll see that many are beautifully formatted and free of spelling errors. They do, however, often contain grammatical errors. Homophones (words that sound alike) like to, two, and too often appear as the two letter word to.
Homophones often take their most common form. The three words their, they’re and there often default to there.
But, in all actuality, though I adore my grammar, I can generally pick up the meaning.
All the monkeys screamed there heads off when I approached. I handed them peanuts.
While I admit it was difficult to write there instead of their, I consider this a forgivable grammatical sin. Shhh. Don’t tell any of the people who ever taught me grammar. They might faint in despair that I have defected!
But, really, when you think about it, three spellings for the same sound? Do we really need three when often, a single word may have many meanings and you just wait for the context?
Take, for example the word match. In one context, we could be talking about online dating, to find the perfect match. Or, we could be talking about a slender stick with a chemical material at the end that catches fire. Still, we could ask some poor child to take part in a quick game of Memory and time her to see how long it takes to match all the cards.
We don’t spell match three different ways. We don’t say, “Honey, you’re a perfect matche. Let me find a mach to light these two candles that match.
English is a little nightmarish with its homophones, don’t you think? The internet and texting might, arguably, help English to condense itself.
We’ve all seen them. The sideways smiley faces and sad faces beckoning us to twist our necks just to “right” the image, if just for personal satisfaction. Lots of word processing programs have picked up on the use of parentheses and colons to make smiley faces and sad faces, if only to help so many of us that need to see a chiropractor after looking at a smiley face or two. :)
But, it’s an interesting phenomenon.
We’re using the punctuation of the English language in a way that was never intended. I’m sure winking smiley faces never crossed the minds of the monks in the fifteenth century when they were writing out their parables. This is also about when semicolons and commas came into use.
Now, the parenthesis, colon, and semicolon are in use like they never have been before! No, their use is not endangered. In fact, most eight year olds have seen and used the semicolon more times in their short lives than I have and I’m four times their age! ;)
In conjunction with other punctuation marks, the English language is gaining in its use of punctuation and it’s not going anywhere. :^O
Normal letters and numbers are finding different uses as well: 8)
Many have wished that these emoticons go away. But, I would venture to guess that they’re not only going to not go away, but people are making art from punctuation. Did you see the owl in the photo?
At least punctuation marks aren’t endangered in the artistic sense. Who really knows if they’ll survive the technology revolution in the written sense. They were invented out of necessity to break up text and help people to know when they should pause or come to a full stop. Commas and full stops at least have a secure place in written history.
The exclamation point, however, has gone into overdrive. It’s often difficult to convey emotion in writing – especially in the short, succinct writing of this day and age – and together with the use of emoticons to help convey emotion, the exclamation point has become ubiquitous.
I’m so happy for you.
Really? You are? That’s a flat-sounding statement right there.
I’m so happy for you!
Now, with some emphasis added, it really does seem like somebody’s happy for little ol’ me.
But what happens when the exclamation point goes into overdrive?
I can’t wait until the weekend! I’m going camping! We’re going to the reservoir! We’ll be on a boat!
Really, I can’t tell what this person is talking about because I’m too busy wondering if ADD has played a significant role in this individual’s life. How can I possibly take any of that seriously?! You’ll be on a boat? Wow. You’re going to the reservoir? Big deal. I’ve been around the globe. You’re going camping? Great. I’m going to bludgeon myself with that exclamation point that you’re jabbing me with.
It’s not that exclamation points are bad, but when every phrase you use ends with one of those, I get jittery.
Those dot-dot-dot thingies!
They’re creepy, they’re crawley…dot, dot, dot….
They get WAY overused.
Something funny is happening. The full stop or period is changing his name to Dot. Didn’t you know? I think she might be transgendered, but that’s okay. Dot com wouldn’t be the same without her, don’t you think?
But, I’m not talking about the dot in the singular sense. It’s the triplet sense that worries me.
Three is not better than one.
Email, online writing and texting are caught somewhere between an actual speech conversation and a written letter. Often, people write as they think and when they pause in their thinking...they sometimes think…that they need to have a pause...in their sentence...or phrase.
En ellipsis is fine to use…once…or even twice. But when your email or online article has dots all over it, I don’t want to be thinking about the next dress pattern I’m going to sew. I’m thinking that I’d like you to get to your point already, otherwise I really might take out that polka dot pattern and shred it.
The English language will survive without the overuse of the ellipsis, but I wonder if your email will.
Many a teacher and reader lament that texting and online instant messaging have ruined many would-be good writers.
Maybe they’re right. Maybe, though, these acronyms can help the rest of us to shorten our speech and words in good ways.
TMI – Too much information. Most everyone who spends time online will understand this acronym. What’s interesting though, is how many employees at the watercooler let this acronym slip out.
Coworker 1: Johnny stayed over at Melinda’s last night.
Coworker 2: Did he have too much to drink? Melinda? Really?
Coworker 3: TMI. (She walks off, shaking her head. The other two shut up, knowing they probably shouldn’t have said anything in the first place. Or, maybe they’ll head to Coworker 1’s office to chat some more.)
BFF – Best friends forever. TV commercials have really popularized this particular acronym. It’s become cliché and we all roll our eyes at it. However, you know it’s probably going to stick around for awhile when you find it engraved on those little chain necklaces with those hearts. One best friend gets one, and the other best friend gets the other.
The list goes on: L8TR, BRB, LOL, LOLV, TTYL, and hundreds of other acronyms have made it into our written and even spoken vocabulary.
Poor Shakespeare. Would he have any idea how to speak English in the 21st century?
"Excuse me, Mr. Shakespeare. Your profile image is a bit aged. I think it's funny, LOL, but you should change it. I'll check back with you, TTYL."
Then again, I would have trouble understanding Shakespeare in the 15th century, I'm sure. If you have ever tried to read his plays, you'll know what I mean.
All in all, I think English is safe. It's not going to turn into Weblish. I think it will continue to gain words and punctuation will change in its use, especially if people want to put emotion in their written word: :O
© 2012 Cynthia Calhoun
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