As text messaging spreads, will our language deteriorate even further?
Through the medium of instant messaging (ancient history to many now), we started learning to use shorthand to express ourselves as most people just didn’t type fast enough to keep multiple conversations going at once. From there came expressions which are now considered commonplace and I wouldn’t be surprised if they appeared in a dictionary somewhere. Examples of this shorthand include:
- POOKas well as a multitude of others which have been forgotten or fallen into disuse as the texting generation stole some and added others of their own. Now, it is fairly common, despite the fact that our smart phones have had QWERTY keyboards for awhile now, to see things like:
- R U there?
- Do U C that?
- Will I C U tomorrow?
- IDK and dozens of other abbreviations or abominations of the language, depending on your perspective. In an article in the Economist dated May 29, 2014, it was estimated that the average, English speaker for whom it is their native language has a vocabulary of between 20,000 and 35,000 words. In a similar article in BBC News Magazine dated April 28, 2009, the estimate was further refined. College educated individuals average between 50,000 and 75,000 words while people without a college education average only about 35,000 words. The article also indicates that the average 8 year old already has a vocabulary of about 10,000 words!
I find myself wondering if our smart phones are making us dumber because it takes too long to type things out. (I, myself, still have a nasty habit of taking the time to type a 50 dollar word into a text message if I think it makes my point more clearly, but I believe I’m probably the exception.) Even worse is the advent of voice texting and note taking. We just talk and the phone prints what we say…sort of. My experience so far with this feature has been less than spectacular. I find myself going back and editing the texts before I send them because they end up with some very odd words I’m sure I didn’t dictate!
The point I’m trying to make as briefly as possible (I am on a mission to spare you from my latest rash of 1100-1500 word posts), is that current practices could well cause our language to deteriorate until there just aren’t enough commonly recognized words left to really describe what we see, hear and feel!
When I write stories and things I want to eventually publish, the reading level gadget in Word typically shows that I’m writing at about a Grade 13 level. The authors I read for my own pleasure tend to write at the same level, if not higher. I find myself looking words up now and then, which only means that I’ve increased my own vocabulary. But if the reader only understands a third to a half of the words we use, they will get bored and put our books down.
My question tonight is, what can we do to prevent the demise of our beautiful, colorful language as we know it?
It would deeply sadden my literary mind if generations to come didn’t read any of the books written over the last couple of hundred years because they’ve lost the ability to understand the words. Yet, they will continue to shortcut their sentences unless we can find a way to make it fun to have a larger vocabulary. I’m less concerned with those who come from a family which encourages reading as they will always be a step ahead, even factoring in peer pressure. It’s the ones whose parents leave their entire education to the public school system who will fall by the wayside without some kind of intervention now!
As writers, I think we need to really concern ourselves with maintaining and even increasing the vocabulary level of upcoming generations…before many of our wonderful words become extinct.
My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful for a large, expressive vocabulary.
2. I am grateful that I was encouraged to read from a very young age, and learned to love going exploring between the pages of a book.
3. I am grateful for writers, authors, bloggers and anyone else who is generating more written words. With everyone involved, we can keep our words alive.
4. I am grateful for weird things which inspire my blog posts. I am rarely at a loss for words these days.
5. I am grateful for abundance: vocabulary, loving, caring, sharing, kindness, peace, harmony, health and prosperity.
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