Spell it, don’t quell it

“I had an email from someone this week that read, “Da ut ov 2day are really annoying me!” Ut? I had to say this 20 times before I understood it. Youth has now become ut. Haven’t we taken enough from them – now we have to take their letters?” – Shazia Mirza

Me: Why are you living with people still?
Julian: Coz I like living with ppl. Didn’t u know I dun really like being alone? Pretty sure u knew that.
Me: Not liking to be alone is one thing. Not liking to share a bathroom and living space is another. I thought most adults like their own space.
Julian: The property market in Syd(ney) is insane. N I’m not willing to fork out dat much cash to live alone.
Me: Fair enough. I think I’m too much of a hermit.
Julian: Well, wouldn’t it b easier to just rent a room from someone if u want to b a hermit? So much hassle if your name is on d lease n all d bills.
Me: My name was on the lease and all the bills for 4 years…
Julian: U rented a place for 4 years?!! I’ve moved about 3 times in d last 4 years! Look who’s d hermit now. Lol
Me: I rented 2 places in 4 years, but I lived alone in both places. And moving a lot makes you a nomad, not a hermit.
Julian: Hahaahh. Yes Ms Foo. Once again I stand corrected. Dun think I’ve ever met anyone who is so uncompromising with d English language.
Me: You wouldn’t compromise on your Chinese, would you?
Julian: I meant u never let a mistake go uncorrected. N has anyone ever notice that u never EVER use “chat” language. No brb’s, no lol’s, no smiley face. Always prim n proper good ‘ol fashioned English. I think if u were an english teacher, ur kids would either have perfect English or they’d just quit d language.
Me: I do use brb, like when I have to rush off to a meeting or the bathroom.
Julian: But dats driven by productivity, not laziness or just pure slack. Which all we other mere mortals r guilty of.

In my defense, I only became a spelling and grammar Nazi two years ago; prior to that I only watched out for my own writing and didn’t let others’ bother me too much. It started out as a mere idiosyncrasy when I first got to know Greg and corrected some of his mistakes, then it became a habit when I was studying Linguistics in college and undergoing my TEFL training in Boston, and now it has become something of a sixth sense because of my job. That I only correct the people I care about is a sign of self-restraint from correcting every other mistake I see or hear around me.

My stand on not using the ‘chat language’ has remained unchanged ever since I learnt to use IRC and ICQ some 12 years ago: English, and every other language, for that matter, should be written and spelt the way God — or at least the dictionary — intended.

In an age where texting, Instant Messaging and emailing have become so much more dominant than writing letters by hand, I suppose it would be inevitable that people would become more inclined to use such abbreviations. But when they start sending text messages that look like this: “Hi, I ope you av a gr8 day. Call me La8tr,” it’s difficult not to feel something very like contempt because something, somewhere, has gone wrong. On one hand, the sender was simply texting the way they speak (dropping the voiceless fricative [h] is a common phenomenon in British English), and on the other, they were just plain lazy. In that message, 10 characters are actually spaces, so at different points during the construction of the other measly 34 characters, the sender simply could not bear the task of keying in a few extra characters to make themselves more coherent and less juvenile. What’s worse is when such messages are sent via email; if you have time to sit at a computer, wait for pages to load due to an abysmal Internet connection, and type on a full keyboard, you have time to type out a intelligible email message.

It’s not that I don’t condone the use of the ‘chat language’; God knows I would eventually have had to get used to seeing it the way I had to get used to the fact that Malaysians will insist on using the horrifically redundant ‘double-confirm’. I just don’t believe in using abbreviations like ‘LOL’ and ‘TTYL’ because ‘hahaha’ and just plain ‘later’ make more sense to me. I do, however, use ‘BRB’ because under normal circumstances I would say, “I’ll be right back,” and I switch to the abbreviation when I have only just enough time to do so because I have to run to a meeting or my bladder refuses to be still.

I suppose we all have our own ways of being lazy. Some will type, “Itz rainin and jam so we r goin 2 be la8. Sorrie!” I’ll just go, “Rain. Jam. Fuck.”

And, for all its intents and purposes, I hate the word ‘chat’.

4 thoughts on “Spell it, don’t quell it

  1. ssminkey

    Sandra, you are my hero for posting this. (I got here from your Facebook posting.) I agree totally with this. I absolutely despise the use of “chat language” in email, Facebook status updates and comments, etc. Particularly annoying to me is when someone does everything right, but constantly uses “u” for “you.” I say, “You have a keyboard; use it. Show some respect for the language, those who read your writing, and yourself.” Bravo, Sandra. Oh yeah, I think it’s interesting that people use “d” for “the.” I must wonder if they cannot pronounce the “th” sound. – Scott, another TEFLer from that school in Boston

    1. backstagepiphany

      SCOTT! how are you? are you still teaching at BAE? i miss that place like you wouldn’t believe.

      unfortunately, i think the use of ‘u’ is a chronic problem that can never go away. and as for substituting ‘the’ with ‘d’ (sometimes ‘de’), that’s how most people in my country pronounce the word; additionally, people use ‘dis’ for ‘this’, ‘dat’ for ‘that’, and sometimes even ‘den’ for ‘then’.

    1. backstagepiphany

      you’re welcome :). and for what it’s worth, you did an admirable job of trying to watch out for your own mistakes, which is more than i can say for most of the people i know.


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