Sunday, May 24, 2009

Barracking on...

"Give me chance, O ye of little faith!" spake His E-ness. 

I never give up a chance to ridicule bad English. At my best behavior, I will let it go with a suggested correction. Needless to say, I am not a very popular editor among my friends. "SMS lingo" is an instant turn off, Facebook updates have to be at the least grammatically correct, e-mails have to be properly punctuated and letters definitely have to be indented, justified and well-written. Information redundancy, the use of articles unnecessarily, improperly placed prepositions and unpunctuated sentences are all manifestations of poor language. There is no way I can say all of this without sounding like a snob. But then, if preferring a sandwich toasted isn't uptight, then why should preferring a semantically apt sentence be? The English language as I learned it from my father is dying slowly. I want to be all revolutionary and try to save it, but other than the occasional correction, I don't do anything. 
I've begun to tolerate words like wat, wot, plz, bcoz, whr, fer (Apparently 'for' but could also be 'fur'?), da, ma (Carnatic overtures?), rotflz, lolz (What is with the random letter addition at the end? How about lolg, rotflk?), skl (school), cud (not what the cow chews), wud (Scottish influence much?), l8r (I know alphanumerical, but whoa there...) and the icing on the cake-  b, d, k, r, s, u, ur, v, y (be, the, ok, are, yes, you, your, we, why)(Just checking to make sure it takes me exactly one millisecond more to type the actual word). Even in the times of the telegraph, where each word cost the sender more, people didn't mess with spelling so much. 
With the advent of the computer, one would think that since it takes less time to correct mistakes (with software actually prompting spellings and offering grammar checks), people would make less of them. My mother was right in asking me to not expect things, especially from the technologically pampered. I still remember one of the earliest gifts my father gave me - a Wren & Martin. For fear of it going out of publication, I have mine tucked away safely in a chest with other classics like Tom Sawyer, Moby Dick and such.
The day isn't far when there are two types of English, official and colloquial. Further down the lane is a twenty page dictionary. Maybe a couple of hundred years from now we'll resort to Hieroglyphics. Reminds me of this article that I wrote several years back about things coming a full circle. Probably true for linguistics as well. Sigh.
I have never been to England, but I have my hopes pinned on them for the preservation of this language. 

Color: Red and yellow 

22 comments:

Eugene said...

Yay! I got another quote, haha. Nice post. From now on, I'd better make sure that everything I write is grammatically correct.

DPhatsez said...

Dear Editor

me:"LolZ @ ur gr8 xpctations!
Wurd 2 d wize: Dream on!
Dis is how we do it, Fo' shizzle ma nizzle!"

me again:"Pardon me madam..henceforth only mellifluous utterances extolling thy divine nature and beauty shall emanante from my tongue."

I do street-lingo and exam english.Whichever way the cookie crumbles, I'm covered.
:)
\m/

Ranjan said...

playing the devil's advocate. language is a means of communication, so if it is used in a way that is understood I don't see a point in being strict about the usage of the language

B Shyam Sundar said...

yeah ... its a pain. The worst is the short form of come!

Deepu Vasudevan said...

@Eugene

You will remain my favorite person for a long time, looks like :)

@DPhatsez
It doesn't have to be that complicated. Simple English is often the most elegant and classy.
I like the cookie expression. I look forward to using it in a post/comment/conversation. :D

@Ranjan
There is more to language than communication. Language is the strata on which culture is built. This is true for other languages as well. Language is the spine of history and certainly the most common art is that of writing.
The degeneration of language(and hence culture) begins exactly this way, when people stop caring about the hows and whys.

@Shyam

I avoided mentioning that one on purpose. Riles me so. :|

Sandeep said...

I loved this post.

I have *decided* to ask for a favor from you after reading this post. I'll ask when the right time comes, and i hope you would oblige.


In the last sentence ' I have never been to England, but I have my hopes pinned on them for the preservation of this language. ' i didn't get what the pronoun 'them' was referring to.

I guess the antecedent you meant to have was English(or people of England), not England.

Deepu Vasudevan said...

@Sandeep

Thank you for pointing that out. Clarity is something I have to work on. :)
And you are welcome anytime to ask any favor. Asking is usually free. ;)

Paul said...

I don't think the English will preserve it, but at least they will make the language sound nice forever and ever...Its also true what you say for Spanish. So if you ever find a solution for English let me know! I can then use that solution and become the revolutionary that saved the Spanish language

Parikshith Kumar said...

Ma Eng'z prty bad duh!
I need ppl lyk ya tuh hlp meh imprv. Sm 1 shud hv told meh nt 2 use Wren & Martin as a desk pillow in skool.

N btw, gr8 post! :-)

Shri said...

I couldn't agree more. In fact, I remember there were days when I would make sure that letters were in the right case(upper or lower) when writing in a chat window. Friends frowned upon it, but I protested. Eventually, I've also gotten down to do the same as most.

But I do try my best to write grammatically correct English.

I think the problem is usually the disparity between the thought process and speed of writing. Sometimes one is thinking so fast that the speed of typing does not match it. And to overcome this, people started on using short-forms. On cell phones, the problem was even worse. The speed of thought and the speed of finding alphabets on the nine buttons made things worse.

But I don't quite agree with your opinion about technology. Today, the way technology is, the interface to computers is using keyboards. A day will come when there will be some device which will take voice input (MS Word already does this) and type it out. Or maybe a headset that will directly take input from your brain and type things out :).

And software developers will have to make sure that these devices do not make grammatical mistakes :).

-Shri

lallopallo said...

You are such a snob. :P
Jokes apart, I agree completely with you. I myself have this obsession of sticking to as correct English as possible even for Facebook updates..
I taught GMAT for a test preparation company..I still do private tutoring sometimes....I guess that explains a bit of my obsession with worrying too much about the grammar; sentence correction is a very important part of GMAT

Deepu Vasudevan said...

@Paul

Especially their women ;)
Estoy apprendiendo espanol :D

@Parikshith

You certainly look like you need help alright. IIT coaching textbooks were better pillows!

Thank you for stopping by!

@Shri

I think we have similar tendencies in writing w.r.t. indentation and minding the case. I highly doubt the software would help the technologically pampered. There is actually a breed of people who think this language is "cool". Borrowing from the words of my illustrious junior - "u rnt walkin wit d times. dis is kool."
And this breed typically imposes a sort of peer pressure, especially in college environments, to use "cool" words. The 9 key pad comes with a dictionary prompt that I've rarely seem college folk use. It is not about convenience anymore, it is about "style" apparently.

@Dev

Ooh, yaay! I'm a snob. :D
Teaching English is a whole new league. You just gained five bonus points on the chart!

Shri said...

"I highly doubt the software would help the technologically pampered."

Wait and watch :)

Pesto Sauce said...

True....slangs will take over & language will lose beauty

Deepu Vasudevan said...

@Pesto Sauce

Interesting screen name and an agreeable comment. Thank you for stopping by!

Uttara said...

Hi,I can't agree more.. I was reading this before I read your blog...

Get ready to cringe(its a testimonial to someone I know)

well...wat to rite abt u...heard from ppl dat u talk a lot...but nevr spoke to me nythin oder dan studies..hmm...well acordin to me..abt her dhi...lets c...i think she is a nice fren...and advices a lot...a lot..well i lik dat to hear frm u...den a carin frend..a nice fren...ya...interested in arts..hmm...a sequel of this testimonial ll b ritten as i cum to kno abt u...and..jus feel gud to hav u...enjoy

Deepu Vasudevan said...

@Uttara,

Cringed. Then said a prayer.
Classic "dude" behavior, I suppose.

Uttara said...

Bingo :P

BrownPhantom said...

On careful observation, one of the many conclusions has been that those with weaker grammar tend to use the lingo more often.
I can proudly declare that I have never ROFL'd , but yes, sometimes have given in to the efficiency of short-hands :). "abt" has been generously used instead of "about".
Reading "Wren & Martin" is a joy :).

Deepu Vasudevan said...

Tsk, tsk, Phantom. Abt?
You can do better than that.
Try this - bt. That's all I usually get.

Ryan.A.Nash said...

It's gotten worse, what with words like 5n, 10q, tmr and the likes surfacing. No points for figuring them out.

"Just checking to make sure it takes me exactly one millisecond more to type the actual word" -> My argument too.

vins said...

hey i completely agree i do ridicule bad english but not now..all i can now get is pity when you look at larger class of people who does not 've a formal education or in english medium schools they just can't get their english right..whatever they do perhaps they've to learn from childhood..and i guess the shortforms and sms were u know like a boon for them..and their bad english is very contagious too over a period of time ..from my expereience