The Txt Gene - Instant english
F U T U R O L O G Y - 4
by William Sutton
(Standard British accent)
hand-held - portatili.
- situazione da
continues to evoke
anger - i messaggi di
testo continuano a
keypad - digitati
tramite la tastiera del
blame it for attribuiscono (agli
SMS) la colpa di...
lack - mancanza.
skills - abilità.
socially inept loners
- tipi solitari e incapaci di socializzare.
uneducated - non
shallow - vuota (di
illiterate and rude analfabeta e
Il linguaggio super-abbreviato degli SMS (texting in inglese) sta distruggendo
le capacità espressive delle future generazioni, secondo i soliti allarmisti.
Ma la comunicazione senza fronzoli ha parecchi vantaggi. Eccone alcuni.
Picture1 a group of people sitting together, in a room or on a train, smiling, laughing, communicating – but
not with each other. Instead they are
sending messages to friends far away,
even in other towns or countries, using
hand-held2 communicators. 10 years
ago, this seemed a space-age scenario3.
Today, we all carry technology that was
once a Star Trek fantasy. Yet, despite its
phenomenal popularity, text messaging
continues to evoke anger4.
How did it start?
Developers of mobile phones realised
that they could easily include a text
function. They limited it to 160 characters, entered through the phone’s
keypad5. Nobody dreamed it would be
so popular. By 2006, texting was used
by 72 per cent of the globe’s 2.7 billion
mobile phones; in the U.K. alone we
send four billion messages a month.
Teachers, journalists and other opponents of texting blame it for6 linguistic
inability, lack7 of attention and antisocial behaviour8. A controversial study
by Crispin Thurley of Cardiff University identifies more specific complaints9
from alarmist guardians of language:
1. Texting ruins individual language
skills10, and it is ruining English.
2. Texting is a waste of time, only
popular with socially inept loners11.
3. Text language is uneducated12; text
communication is shallow13: “hieroglyphics, codes and face symbols comprehensible only to initiates.”
Are they right? Is the Text
Generation illiterate and rude14?
There’s some truth in these complaints.
I’m disturbed when a friend of mine
reads and sends texts while we’re talking, but it’s worth remembering that
there were rude and illiterate people
before mobile phones.
Thurley’s study attacks these stereotypes. It’s true that texters omit letters and punctuation15, but most know
when they are doing it. They are effectively bilingual. Traditionalists may
Guide to Txt
laugh out loud
Hi, mate. Are you okay?
Are you going to
the pub tonight?
I am sorry that I forgot
to call you last night.
hi m8 ru
soz 4gt 2 cl
u lst nyt.
complain, but with so much information to process, it’s sensible for digital
natives to simplify16 when they can.
Text language brings the immediacy,
flexibility and humour of speech into
What about the complaint that it’s
shallow and for loners?
Wrong. Technophobes assume that text
communication is brief and imbecilic.
But text content17 is not necessarily
shallower than talking or writing letters.
Thurley considers that, by maintaining
intimacy over distance and time, text
is “small-talk par excellence18,” creating its own etiquette and social rules.
It becomes an empowering creative
outlet19, crucial for social bonding20.
He identifies the principal functions of
texting: friendship, information, humour, flirting and sex. A waste of time
for isolated losers? Hardly21.
But the language is hard to
Media hype has inextricably associated texting with abbreviations like
the number 4 (meaning “for”), gr8
(for great) and the letters RU (for “are
you”). “Emoticons” are also criticised:
these are those little sideways faces23
made from punctuation, such as the
smiley face written :) or :-)
But such codes are optional. In Thurley’s
study of 500 messages, there were:
- only three abbreviations per message
- 73 letter-number homophones (like
gr8 and RU)
- only 39 emoticons
- 192 apostrophes used correctly
Just as the 1950s media criticised
youth culture for its jeans and CocaCola, today we stigmatise text speak
– often unfairly24.
What’s next for texts?
New uses constantly emerge. You can
enter competitions, complain to the
government and get reports on weather,
traffic, football and even check if your
bus is on time. With a third of the world
sending over a billion messages each
day, it’s hard to claim25 they’re exclusive.
Quicker than letters, less intrusive than
phones, more immediate than email,
the ubiquitous26 text message is here
There is no established term for the
language of text messages. Options
include: textspeak, textese, chatspeak,
txtspk, txt talk and simply txt, as in “Do
U spk txt?” The phrase SMS is not
widely used in spoken English.
One Scottish schoolgirl shocked
teachers with a text speak essay: “My
smmr hols. B4, we usd 2 go 2 NY
2C my bro & his 3 :[email protected] kids. ILNY,
its gr8 ...” Translation: “My summer
holidays. Before, we used to go to
New York to see my brother and his
three screaming kids. I love New York,
it’s sensible... to
simplify - ha senso
che la generazione
text content - il
contenuto degli SMS.
excellence conversazione spicciola per antonomasia.
creative outlet - un
crucial for social
bonding - essenziale
per la socializzazione.
hardly - non proprio.
media hype - le
sideways faces faccine (che vanno
guardate) di fianco.
it’s hard to claim - è
The Guardian newspaper’s text
message poetry competition was won
by Hetty Hughes with her poem: “txtin
iz messin mi head ’n’ me englis…”
Translation: “Texting is messing up my
head and my English.”
But is this new? Consider this: “Our clt
Mr Jarndyce being abt to rece into
his house, under an Order of the Ct
of Chy in this cause, for whom he
wishes to secure an elgble compn.”
A legal text message? No: from
Charles Dickens’ Bleak House,
published in 1853.