Friday 21 April 2006

'Texting' time

(From The Hindu archives)

"My summr hols wr CWOT. B4, we usd 2 go 2 NY 2C my bro, his GF & thr 3 :-O kds FTF. ILNY, it's a gr8 plc."

CAN'T MAKE sense out of it? Worry not. It is not pure English, nor is it French or German or Italian — it is something called SMS language, or more popularly, `texting' language.

The sentence was written recently by a 13-year old girl, when she was asked to submit an essay by her school teacher, in a secondary school in Scotland.

The teacher was puzzled and was quoted saying, "The page was riddled with hieroglyphics, many of which I simply could not understand."

The essay when `translated' into real English, read: "My summer holidays were a complete waste of time. Before, we used to go to New York to see my brother, his girlfriend and their three screaming kids face-to-face. I love New York, it's a great place."

This incident set off a spark among educationists who came down heavily on the trend over the past two decades, of declining standards of written language — something that is clearly reflected in text message shorthand.

According to a psychologist quoted by The Times, London, "Kids today don't write letters. Sitting down to type or write an essay is very difficult for them. They revert to what they feel comfortable with — `texting is attractive and uncomplicated'.

Or as the Parent -Teacher Council in the Scottish town, which triggered the current alarm, put it, "Pupils think orally and write phonetically."

Immediately after this news story broke, BBC's Online service came up with the cheeky idea of asking surfers to `SMSize' classic English quotations.

Responses included:

"2b or not 2b that's ?" or even more mathematically as: "2b/-2b=?"
(From Shakespeare's "Hamlet": To be or not to be, that is the question),

"0.5a leag 0.5a leag, 0.5a leag onwrd In2 T valy o Dth Rd T 600a.." (Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade": Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward, Into the valley of death Rode the six hundred"),

"LEmntry, my dEr Wtson"
(Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories: "Elementary, My dear Watson").

The `texting' lingo began with picture symbols: `emoticons' and `smileys', before pervading the English language. The earliest `texting' words were: gr8 (for great), tc (for take care), b4 (for before) and the rest. Speed is the keyword in texting lingo — the faster you are, the better it is.

A.VISHNU



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