Whre is the dictionary?

Is it English or is it some foreign language? The child wondered as he received a message from his elder cousin congratulating him on his new possession- the mobile phone. He was given a hearty welcome into the texting world in an undecipherable English language.

Optimizing the space in face of constraint of characters which can be used in a single message, has given rise to a hybrid language and is threatening to further undermine the standard of English spelling. Text messaging corrupts all languages alike and worries educationists all over the world. The French, for instance, are especially touchy regarding their language. So much so, that the use of English on radio or on billboards is always accompanied by French translations. The language is their national identity and it is already facing threat from English. The texting revolution has further added to the grievances of the concerned educationists and nationalists. The modus operandi is the self destructive nature of the texting language. It not only distorts the language but is considered cool and fashionable among the youth. An obvious question then: who can save the languages? Or should we look forward to the day when we have texting-language dictionaries up for sale? The language is creeping into marketing toolboxes. Banks are using texting language to their benefit and attracting the youth by projecting a youth-friendly image using the hybrid-abbreviated language. For instance, PNB Paribas which has modelled its slogan as ‘TA+K ENTRER’ (T’as plus qu’entrer, or you only have to come in). ‘C CHIC’, a play on C’est chic (Its chic) is the name of Citroën’s exhibition on the Champs Elysées in Paris. These examples only go to show the potential exploitation of language (whether good or bad, time will tell) which is evolving faster due to fresh impetus by technology. Ask the agents who are behind the formulation of the abbreviated languages derived out of the primary language and pat comes the reply, it is convenient and saves money.

But, how does it affect the written part of linguistics when the maximum amount of practice of using the language in its written form is derived out of texting these days? The convenience brought about by the Short Messaging Service has swept away the population using cell phones and is becoming as important as making phone calls. The cell phones come with a lot of communication features and making calls is sometimes sidelined in face of the opportunities and convenience texting offers. However, a novice to mobile communication always faces the daunting task of internalizing the ‘sms lingo’. Words which are frequently used in texting when used on paper require a thought and a change of spelling. Grammar and spellings on paper lie at the mercy of the frequency with which the writer uses text message form of communication.
It happens with me when I am e-mailing. My fingers automatically type the abbreviations and then immediately hit ‘backspace’. A process of retrieving information on the spelling and grammar from the memory built by formal education comes to my rescue. The spell check and grammar check built in Microsoft Office Word acts as a virtual examiner painting the page red and green. I thank my stars that I do not have to sit for an English exam ever in my life now. What of my juniors? Shorthand might be very helpful but not in an English exam!

Himadri Agarwal

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