Tag Archives: writing

The dumbing down of the English language

I was maybe around 10 years old when I was first presented with the following “riddle:”

C D E D B D ducks?
M R not ducks!
O S A R!
C D E D B D wings?
Y I B! M R ducks!

For anyone as confused as I was, the conversation above says:  “See the itty-bitty ducks?” “Them are not ducks!” “Oh yes they are! See the itty-bitty wings?”  “Why, I be! Them are ducks!”

In this day and age, more and more I feel like I did when I was first presented with that riddle. I get text messages or I see Facebook status updates that will take me ten minutes to decipher, because they are filled with short hand.  When I was younger, this type of spelling appeared only in the comic pages or perhaps as a bonus question on a test.

4ward. gr8. u2. 2morrow. 2day.

I have actually reached a point of frustration in which I will ignore some text messages that use too much shorthand. Text me when you remember how to spell correctly.

I know that part of the problem is lack of space to say all you want to say. Twitter limits you to 140 characters. Text messages (generally) limit you to 160 characters. When your message is too long, I recognize the need to fudge words here and there. But when I get a message that says, “R U there?” I get filled with a deep annoyance. Spell out the words. Don’t make me say it out loud to understand what you are trying to say. In the time it takes me to translate the text, I could have responded twice.

I found a wonderful blog post entitled “The decline and corruption of the English language” on Helium.com.

Today, the world’s literacy seems to be taking reverse leaps. Where children were once trained to appreciate language and the diversity of syntax, grammar, consistency and clarity, today’s youth see the push toward speed and stylized text.

Not only have we moved away from standing true to the language and grammatical rules we were taught growing up, many of our youth no longer learn to neatly and clearly write their own names. Where I learned “keyboarding” as a freshman in high school (though I did have some classes in it as early as fifth grade), most children learn typing techniques as early as kindergarten and first grade.

I have at times said that computers and the internet are the most wonderful and the most horrible things to ever happen to our world. Everything we do, we do at lightening speed. It’s resulted in our doing more work in less time, and its also resulted in our no longer having the need to retain anything we learn. We can find what we want in a moments notice, all with a few clicks of a mouse.

We are all tethered to our computers in one way or another. Unfortunately, instead of it elevating our English language, that fact has dumbed it down. I am sure we are a long way from newspapers and books going to full short hand text (though I have seen greeting cards written in it!). And professors still demand research papers be written properly and edited. But every day, I see our short hand of letters joined with numbers showing up in a new location. Often times, its coming from people I would have never expected to use it. Perhaps its simply become habit. Perhaps its an attempt to “fit in.” Whatever the reason, though, it bothers me.  A lot.

Language is obviously one of the first cultures to suffer, art and music are following in kind, and eventually we’ll return to stick figure cave paintings left for the generations to uncover and scratch their heads over, attempting to discern what happened to the renaissance and the so-called intelligent lives we once led. (From The decline and corruption of the English language)