By Jamaine Chiwaye
Texting is one of those occurrences in the 21st century that no one can grasp in its entirety. Even the Mxit addicts who spend countless amounts of time flexing their thumbs cannot lay claim to total domination of the world of text. However, although we don’t understand everything, it doesn’t stop anyone for one moment. What we don’t understand, we questions. But what happens when the answers are more questions and all you do is find circles with angles? That is when the questions should be answered by Rhodents.
There are questions around texting being asked by many, including lecturers, teenagers and parents. The most common is “Why?” The main reason we text is for quick and convenient communication. Enter SMS lingo. As most are aware of it, it is understood that this is a blatant disregard for grammar and any linguistic sense. Those who use it are more focussed on the phonetic spelling of the word. Very often this loses the meaning of the word and understanding follows it right out the window as well. If one was to go around campus and ask people questions about it, some will bravely admit to using it, some will know it is somewhat insensible and deny using it, and the sane will show their detest for it. Which side are you on? A standard factor is that cell phones and texting are here to stay. It seems that, even though there are applications which enable you to make cheap phone calls, like Mxit allows cheap text messages, people still opt to let their thumbs do the talking. They cannot be blamed for their allegiance simply because it is convenient. According to some, you don’t really exist if you don’t have Mxit or Facebook.
But how do the people whose lives are about language feel about the senseless butchering and agonising bereavement of their beloved? It seems to be unanimously agrred upon that the use of SMS lingo is fast encroaching on students’ academic work. It is a well known occurence that people have been caught a little off guard while producing academic work and have spelt ‘you’ as ‘u’ or have even gone as far as to say ‘bcuz’. Absent minded? Maybe. It truly is worrying that a fictitious language that threatens to remove meaning from a task such as syntax is dominant in the minds of the masses. When asked about the mixture of the two separate language uses, Ms Courtney Davids, an English lecturer here at Rhodes, said, “What must be highlighted is that it seems that students ignore the evidence of their own decline, or a crossing over of the two separate exercises, and merely fuse it because they become nonchalant and I daresay, indolent. They ignore the warning signs and simply refuse to check and remind themselves that they are writing an academic piece that is far removed from cell phone texting. Herein lays the danger.” I
t was well noted that although lecturers did not necessarily condone the use of SMS lingo, they were not against it. The only thing they are against is when students don’t know the boundaries and bring the quasi-language to paper. Then, when they are forced to read a student going on about “goin 2 skul” or some similar work of absurdity, they will not be very impressed. Students should therefore, perhaps, start making sure that they reserve SMS lingo for their phones only. Another way that the use of abbreviating has infected general society is through the gift of the gab. If you talk to a handful of new people in one day, say 20, I’m sure you will here the odd ‘LOL’. The question to such people is if you want to laugh out loud, why don’t you?
It is hard to understand why people bring this hybrid language into the beautiful world of prose, verse and conversation, turning it into a farce. When someone has to go, a mere “Excuse me” or even “I’m out of here” will suffice. But according to the people who insist on making the world hear a new language, a “g2g” is all you will receive. Once the “language” (if one dares call it that) enters conversation, it is officially a full blown epidemic. In England, competitions for SMS essays and poetry are being held, with prize money for the most creative use of language. It is not sure if they use the word creative and destructive interchangeably. Shakespeare, Joyce and Keats are turning in their graves and all we can say is “C u ltr!” However, when asked about the situation, Professor Gareth Cornwell of the English department said, “I think people are more sophisticated than they are sometimes given credit for. Most of us know that different situations require different language registers and we are able to switch accordingly.”
Note that this phenomenon or, rather, plague is not only affecting the English language. It is experienced in Zulu, Afrikaans, French and possibly any language where there are predominantly young or lazy speakers and “texters”. The worrying fact is that it is not relenting and is rather pushing much further into the heart of global linguistics. Sir David Crystal, an English Linguistics lecturer at Bangor University in Northern Wales, wrote a book entitled Txtng: the Gr8 Db8 which delves much deeper into the worldwide phenomenon and, believe it or not, provides reasoning for text. It is available at the library and is worth a read. Nevertheless, this language use, as Davids aptly put it, “Threatens to unravel the structural technique and art of writing.” Beware, dear Rhodents, beware! Among you and moving through your thumbs is a sly con artist that threatens to steal from you the art of communication and replace it with primeval grunts. That or, SMS lingo is just another one of those entities that we don’t really understand but, when we use it to the right extent (which may be not at all), may be totally harmless.