Mine is probably the proverbial cry in the wilderness, but it seems to me that human beings—at least speakers of English—are regressing in their communication skills. Many of us, especially young people, rely heavily on abbreviations, symbols, and sign language to share ideas and emotions. It’s as if we never got beyond the colonists’ awkward attempts to communicate with natives in the New World.
English is arguably the richest, most versatile language on the planet. Not as pleasant to the ear as, say, French, but after WWII it superseded French as THE international language. It is, after all, the language of Chaucer and Shakespeare and the King James Bible. And we are forsaking this glorious tongue for something far inferior in the art of communication.
Of course speakers of English have long sprinkled our written language with abbreviations and acronyms in the interest of brevity and convenience. Mr., Mrs., e.g., and so on. Government and military entities are so full of acronyms (words formed of the first letters in a phrase) that they very nearly constitute a separate language—ETA, DEFCON, IRAs, for example. Some have even evolved into full-fledged words in the community at large—e.g., radar and snafu.
Human beings have made use of symbols for various reasons for centuries—in religion and commerce, for instance. The cross, the Star of David, the crescent. Our casual communications between family members and friends will often display a proliferation of Xs and Os to show our affection.
Perhaps the real explosion of such uses in modern times began with the smiley face. It existed before, but was really popularized in the early 60s. Then came other “emoticons” (and this new word to refer to them)—dozens of them. Today, we have “emojis” as well (and another new word) which constitute a language that is as undecipherable to the uninitiated as the American Sign Language is to most of the hearing world. Emojis. Google the term and you’ll see what I mean.
I won’t even get into the way Twitter has adulterated the language. r u rofl?—and so on. Trying to confine even the most profound ideas to 140 characters is an abomination to those who truly love this language of ours.
Yes. I know: I’m an old curmudgeon totally out of sync and whistling in the wind. But . . .