The Problem with Words

Yes, I know. As a linguist, how could I ever possibly say there is a problem with words? I hate that it’s true. Any language nut nowadays that doesn’t approve of where technology is going may say something like “Texting is ruining communication” or “Email is making people more impersonal”. You know, something that explains how technology is bad for words, language and communication. Honestly, it may be true, but in reality I doubt it’s really going to affect language on a long-term basis.


I myself text my friends and family in full sentences, full punctuation—yes, even semi-colons when needed—and make sure that I get my point across even if it takes three texts (that’s 320 characters for those who are curious). But just because I text in full words with the only word I shorten regularly is because (to cuz) doesn’t mean that I am the smart one, that I am the one keeping the language alive and others are not.

I have a manager that recently text me about work, saying:

“I just saw ur email….work ur shifta (*shifts), but I’m going to need u to.”

Aside from the word spelled wrong and a sentence that should end with something else (you need me to what?), it’s still English. Can you read it? Can you understand that she saw my email, wants me to works my shifts because she needs me to? Of course. So, no language has been lost.

Others would disagree.

I can see their arguments. High school students are one set of the problem. After some short Googling here are some of the ways students are misusing language:

Most common misuses are by using an “i” as a stand-alone word, using only the letter “u” instead of the word “you,” using the letter “r” in place of the word “are” and not using periods where needed.

Okay, so maybe kids are forgetting to keep a line between their texts and their papers. I would agree that is a bad thing. Not good for the minds and such. But, it’s not killing anything. Not destroying the world of language as we know it, and it does not make us more stupid. Just as the pidgins and creoles and other languages—yes, like African America Vernacular English  or Ebonics—is still a language.


Don’t argue with me Prescriptivists.

Njoy. N Reed.


For a full article on the matter of text in high school papers read here.


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