For many years I despaired of the teenagers who molested and mauled our language. I observed the emergence of ‘lol’ and ‘c u l8r’ first with trepidation, then with scorn, then with something that balanced precariously between anger and hatred.
And then I wondered, in all seriousness: why on earth would you be proud to present yourself as so appallingly illiterate?
Now, this isn’t one of those rants in which someone looks down upon the young, proclaims that it wasn’t like this in their day, and then proceeds to yearn for a return to the era of tea cosies and domestic maids. On the contrary, the creation of textspeak was, at first, a practical means of fitting a long message into the confines of a number of permitted characters and thereby saving money on stretching the thing across two messages.
Which is all well and good, but since then things have taken a distinct downturn. Recently, I actually heard someone respond to something funny by saying ‘Lol’. That’s right, instead of laughing, they actually said ‘Lol’.
And no, it wasn’t an extremely witty satire on the textspeak culture. It was an authentic fraction of the conversation. If indeed such gems as ‘Innit though’ can be classed as conversing.
This weekend, however, things took a new turn for the worse and sank to a new low.
It took me a while to work that one out. And then I realised that what this was, was ‘Apparently’.
Do feel free to pause at this juncture in order to wait for that crawling sensation to stop creeping over your skin, or to go outside and scream at the sky.
This dire and nothing less than embarrassing slaughtering of English was, you will not be shocked to learn, contained in a tweet. You’d be right to assume that it wasn’t on a hashtag associated with current affairs or the global economic crisis.
A glance at the tweeter’s profile revealed that the source was a teenage girl. Well, it was never going to be a refined intellect such as Victoria Coren or Joan Bakewell. Indeed, one suspects that this tweeter would require assistance joining the dots, never mind completing a sequence on Only Connect.
I’m not opposed to the evolution of language; truly, I’m not. Each generation has, and needs, its own identity, and this is brought about in many ways, not least through its slang. But ask yourself, if this was your child, how proud would you be knowing that this was the manner of base illiteracy spewing forth from their mouth and keyboard? If you were that child’s teacher, would you sleep well, safe in the knowledge that their formative years were securing a prosperous and valid future?
I wouldn’t. And I think I’ve made that all too appazzent.