I Don’t Speak “Texting”

I really do try my best to decipher reader e-mail and, generally, I do a good job. However, lately I have received a number of messages written as if the person were texting me. Unfortunately, I don’t speak texting, so I couldn’t answer the e-mail without clarification. In at least one case, the person in question became agitated. I truly do want to answer your questions, but first, I must understand the question.

The incidents have led me to think through some of the assumptions I have made about language in general and the grammar we use to communicate with each other. Language changes constantly. Sometimes it changes more quickly and sometimes it settles down to percolate for a while. However, as with any living thing, language changes. I’m sure that texting (as it applies to cellphone usage) will contribute to some massive changes in our language.

It wasn’t surprising to learn that there are actually terms for some of these changes. For example, the combination of letters and numbers used to form a word is called wumbers and someone has actually written a book entitled, “Wumbers” about it. That this is a children’s book tells me that youngsters today are steeped in the language of texting long before they own a cellphone. An example of a wumber is “writ10” (pronounced, “written”). You might learn about a 2can (toucan) using wumbers, and always be sure to say 10Q (thank you) when someone does something nice for you. I’m surprised at the number of ways in which wumbers are used today.

On top of the wumbers, the texting devotee also has to learn a host of acronyms and abbreviations. I’m sure that some of these terms are standardized. You can find a sampling of them on Netlingo. There is nothing new about acronyms and abbreviations. In fact, I have used some, such as IAE (In Any Event), for years. However, the sheer weight of new acronyms and abbreviations that have become popular due to texting makes it akin to learning an entirely new language.

At issue is when people start using wumbers, acronyms, or abbreviations, mixed with slang, that other people can’t figure out, despite investing time and effort to do so. The creation of a new language is a painful process—at least, it appears that way from my perspective. There will come a point where a certain level of standardization will occur and texting will become a language onto itself. I’m not sure whether there is an actual name for the language yet or not, but I’m sure some linguist will coin a term for it.

Of course, the problem now is to determine whether texting has the staying power to become a bonafide language. There have been many language failures over the years. Some languages become extinct because the group that spoke them no longer exits; others become extinct because the language was impractical. In order to survive, a language must have enough standardization that people can understand it, it has to meet needs that existing languages don’t, and it also has to have enough flexibility to grow to meet new needs for expressing ideas and concepts.

It’s unlikely that I’ll learn texting anytime soon—partly because I don’t even own a cellphone (the preferred method of practice). When communicating with me, please try to use English or at least a language that I can translate with Google Translate. Let me know your thoughts on the texting language at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Is E-mail Dead?

I keep reading articles that tell me that e-mail is dead. In fact, there was one today on ComputerWorld that describes a company that is moving from e-mail to social media as an exclusive option. Currently, I don’t use any of the options mentioned in the article and don’t have time (or the inclination) to start using them. Don’t get me wrong, social media probably solves problems for some part of the population, it just hasn’t worked out well for me. I can’t see myself outputting tweets about my daily activities and some of the articled I read about Facebook are just plain scary.

My main problem with most modern communication solutions is that they’re overly intrusive. I was in the bathroom the other day and a guy was engaging in business while sitting on the commode; he just couldn’t be bothered to turn his cellphone off to take care of personal matters. That’s just one of many scenarios I’d prefer to avoid. There is strong evidence to conclude that our society has become preoccupied with communication, to the detriment of all. Just how many people died last year from texting accidents? According to the Washington Post, 28 percent of accidents now occur while people are texting or talking on a cellphone. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to talk with someone that badly.

I have to wonder how well social media will work for business needs. Social media assumes a level of connectivity that I’m simply not willing to allow. E-mail works better because someone can send me a message and I can handle it later; at my convenience. More importantly, I can handle the e-mail at a time when I’m not distracted by something else. In addition, I can provide a thoughtful answer; one that I’ve researched and thought through carefully. E-mail also provides me with a permanent written record that I can reference later when I have questions about the discussion.

There is some evidence to say that social media is actually costing business big dollars. For example, the BBC claims that social media is costing business £1.4bn. Other articles are equally certain that social media can save businesses money. I’d say it would be pretty tough to come up with a precise statement either pro or con when it comes to social media’s cost to business, but I know the personal cost. I tried a few solutions as an experiment and found that I was considerably less productive using them than turning it all off and using e-mail. Of course, that’s me, you may very well find that using social media makes you more productive; each person is different.

Personally, I don’t see e-mail as a dead communication technology. If anything, it’s becoming more important to me as I age and my memory becomes less dependable. As far as I’m concerned, the always connected nature of most social media today simply isn’t a good solution if you want to be productive. So, what’s your take on social media? Let me know at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.