Musings of the Week

1) Having seen this article in the NY Times, “R U really reading?” on internet reading, as well as reading some opinions on it from Prof. Orzel, and I was reminded of a conversation I had recently on the evolution of language.  Forget the phrase “R U really reading?”  R U really writing?  Or talking?  The advent of LOLspeak (or L33tspeak, or whatever you call it) has become a force of nature on teh intarwebs.  Everyone agrees it’s terrible grammar (my grammar is certainly not the best, but I know better than “I can has?”), and terrible spelling.  Some think it’s harmless and funny (who doesn’t love LOLcats?).  But some people consider it a threat to the current English language.  As to the article above, I think she IS indeed reading, but I don’t think she will learn to write from it.  Perhaps her mother would have a better time directing her toward fan fiction sites that at least have proper spelling.

Is change to the current english language actually a bad thing?  Evolution of language occurs over time, there’s no question of that.  Consider how many people out there can still understand Shakespeare, let alone Beowulf or the Canturbury Tales, yet we all classify them as English.  In history, it appears that this change in language has been pretty gradual, with occasional jumps, as when, say, England was invaded by the Saxons, and then again by the Normans, who of course brought changes to the language with them.

But this change in internet language has happened very quickly, almost as as fast an an invading force.  Is it here to stay?  Is I gonna haf 2 strt riteing all my posts liek this?  And is this an acceptable change to the language?  Are these new grammar and spelling rules that we should teach in the schools as evidence of language evolution? 

Some people would say that, though these changes are happening, they should not be taught, because they do not inherantly add to the language.  In fact, in many cases, they take away nuances of expression.  But it is bad to “streamline” a language in this manner?  Does LOLspeak interfere with transmission of ideas?  And if it does, how should it be dealt with?  I can easily see both sides of this issue, and I’m interested in other people’s opinions as well.

2) Everyone in the W.O.R.L.D. has been linking to this, about time I did, too, I suppose.  I LOVE Joss Whedon’s Firefly, though I’ve actually never really been a fan of Buffy (don’t hit me!!!).  But Joss Whedon is now out with a sing-along musical blog about the trials and tribulations of being an evil genius.  It’s fantastic.  And I can kill you with my brain.

3) Jurassic Fight Club.  The first rule of Jurassic Fight Club is, no dinosaurs talk about Jurassic Fight Club…

4) Where do trendy chunky layers stop and a mullet begin?  I really would like to know.  With pictures, if you have any.

6 Responses

  1. Would that I could coherently express my dislike of leetspeak… Anything that uses numerics as a replacement for letters or entire words bothers me, for a start. LOLcats bother me, actually, because it strikes me that it would be funnier if everything was accurate.
    Just because change occurs to languages over time does not mean we need to accept every change that is proposed. No, I will not use “nite” when “night” works perfectly well. Yes, I can see that meaning is expressed by using R or U or Y as word replacements, but that doesn’t mean that I need to start doing it too. I wonder how much of this is due to the desire for instant gratification – instant language? Faster, sleeker, smaller? Are we improving the language or just dumbing it down?
    Do you suppose the same discussions were had over contractions? Compound words? Is this how dialects begin?
    I suppose in the end it boils down to the old gem “Jst becuz evry1 is jumping off of a bridge, doesn’t meen U have 2 do it 2.”

  2. I think you overestimate the effect of LOLspeak etc in everyday life. Perhaps it’s just that I’m too old to have grown up with it (at 26) but the idiosyncratic spelling is the principal reason I like I can haz cheeseburger, and it has no effect on my writing. Of course, I probably read more than your average mathematician, which has made me “surprisingly literate for a mathematician”.

    This form of communication came into the UK along with mobile phones – having to fit your meaning into 160 characters for a SMS. Not sure how that one relates to the US situation, I have a feeling you’re not fleeced so badly on your calls, which would give you less motivation to use SMS, perhaps?

    Enjoying your blog, btw 🙂

  3. Charlotte: Thanks for the input! I enjoy my blog, too. 🙂

    I’m not concerned so much with people of our generation and l33tspeak or LOLspeak. We came to it late and don’t tend to use it when communicating unless required. I’ve been seeing it for ages and, as far as I can tell, I’m not speaking in LOLs.

    However, I have actually seen younger people use LOLspeak on tests that I give, and I’ve heard horror stories from humanities professors of papers that are completely unreadable. So I’m not worried so much for us, but for those who are growing up with texting and LOLs as a way of life, and who may never be taught the difference in formal correspondance.

  4. heya,
    I love reading your blog — yes, yes, recently discovered via the sssssexxxx post, but whatever, I am staying for the content. (By the way, this is how lesser people have made their names — starting with the sex-draw and proving that there’s more than just a hottt post.)

    I thought I’d respond to the mullet v. choppy layers question, as it’s one I struggle with, as well. The answer, I fear, is that it is all, gasp, relative. As in, relative to the weather, and the rate of growth of hair sections, and also whether you are using product. It’s such an unmanageable conundrum, for sure. As an owner of such an ambiguous haircut, I encourage you to embrace the liminal and not worry too much about it. I think the secret is confidence!

  5. Awww, Thanks misanthropic anthropologist! You have brought sunshine to the cockles of my cold scientific heart. 🙂 and it’s good advice, I shall keep the sex posts coming!

    The mullet didn’t actually refer to a haircut of mine, it was more of a question in general. Is there a mullet state where you one day look in the mirror and say “yup! that’s business in the front and a party in the back!”? Do people with intermediate layer/mullets know it’s time to get a haircut when they feel the urge to pull out the ripped jeans they’ve owned since 1985? Can one HAVE a mullet without bangs? I MUST KNOW!

  6. I don’t like lolcats. Not because of the grammer though, mainly because I find the idea that a picture of a cat with a mad expression faintly odd no matter what is written undernieth it. The addition of a small piece of text saying ‘I can has cakeeeee?’ does not improve matters much.

    As far as using lolspeak in real life goes my guess is that kids who use it alot will stop using it the minute they have to apply for things like jobs, which tend not to like lolspeak.

    It’s not here to stay. It is an interesting phase that I just find baffling.

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