I’ve recently found myself back in touch with a large number of old schoolfriends thanks to the modern marvel that is Facebook.
It’s great, apart from the fact that most of them are now married and have children, which is decidedly disturbing when your last memory of someone is as a slightly irresponsible and giggly 18-year-old. They sort of freeze in your mind and stay exactly as they were then. Then, nearly a decade later, you find each other on Facebook and realise that they’ve become adults. You see the wedding photos, and the pictures of the kids. You see comments from other friends about motherhood and work and making the packed lunches. It’s awfully disconcerting, because in your head you’re still bunking off RE class with one of them to drink coffee in the prefects’ room, and passing silly notes to another one in English Lit., and thinking another one is just soooooooo cool because she has her own car and can drive a group of you to Portrush for the day.
Anyway, despite the weirdness of it all, it’s lovely to be in contact with my old friends again. Which is why I thought it might be fun to take it a step further and see if there are any past-pupil sort of groups for my primary school, now that I’ve become reacquainted with my Cambridge House buddies. Got to be even more bizarre to find out someone’s married, or a teacher, or a parent, or all three, when your last memory of them is as a gangly 11-year-old, right?
Unfortunately, things went rapidly downhill at this point, and I found myself on my primary school’s Bebo page. It was apparently for past and present pupils to join, which in theory is a nice idea. In practice, it turned out to be run by a pupil of the more “present” variety, and it is this that has plunged me into head-in-hands despair.
so tel me, if u cm 2 dis pg o mine ere n i woz wrtin lik dis wud u kep redin or wud u giv up n gt outta ere?
That “sentence” just took me five full minutes to compose, as it is in a language in which I am not (and shall never be) fluent – I had to keep referring to online resources such as the aforementioned Bebo page. It is, however, the way the majority of people (ppl) aged about 25 and under seem to speak these (dez) days, and I do not understand why it has been permitted to (2) take over in such a horrifyingly widespread way. I’m completely serious about this (dis). This is not English, kids (kidz).
I have given up pretending that I am not turning into my parents or grandparents or whatever, and so I’m just going to come out and say this: in my day, people were expected to use proper spelling and punctuation in their written English, and to follow a set of rules known as grammar. If you stuck an apostrophe in the wrong place, or structured a sentence in an awkward way, or made a spelling mistake, your errors would be circled in red, usually with a scribbled explanation if it wasn’t obvious. And what’s more, you’d be expected to correct it!
Apparently teachers aren’t allowed to use red pens any more. Pointing out mistakes is so last century – think of the poor child’s self esteem! This attitude makes me want to knock heads together and do some shouting. How is a child supposed to know if they’re getting something wrong? What is the point of letting them make the same mistake over and over again, for the sake of being encouraging and not denting their confidence? It’s perfectly easy to say “This is a great essay, with some very good points, but you need to take more care with your sentence structure – see examples”. This was the sort of comment our teachers made, and as a result, the majority of us know basic English. The same cannot be said of the kids coming behind us. They get mobile phones at the age of six, and as a result think that txtspk is actual, proper, written English. Argh! Arrrrrrrghhhh!
Txtspk is a great invention in the context of mobile text messages – where, of course, you have a limited number of letters per message, and so obviously want to write in some form of shorthand in order to save space (and therefore money). I get it, right? I ‘dig’ it, even. I use it myself when necessary. But a large percentage of children and teens now seem to think that it’s acceptable to write like this in any context! It horrifies and appalls me. Spelling mistakes and clumsy grammar are one thing (well, two things, actually), but consistently wrtin lik dis n tinkin its gr8 english isa nuder! Never mind the fact that I was one of the last few to make it the whole way through school without ever owning a mobile or sending a text message, and so am now seeing people only a few years younger than me (who spent their schooldays communicating in txtspk) becoming qualified as teachers.
I cannot convey how distressed I am when I see these people – people who are responsible for the education of the kidz, people whose job it is to set an example and maintain some level of literacy amongst the youth of today – exhanging Facebook comments along the lines of lol yea i love you’re photos!!! and your lookin gr8 wots da craic?!?!?. It physically hurts me. These are teachers. Teachers!
I have much more to say on this subject. I could rant for hours about the txtspk “language” itself, and how for something that is meant to be convenient and quick, it’s incredibly difficult to understand endless lines of vowelless “words”, many of which turn out to be absolutely nothing like the original. I could also wax lyrical about how it’s causing kids to have no understanding of how words are supposed to sound, since double letters seem to vanish (see how “another” becomes “a nuder”, which is probably pronounced “a nudder” – and shouldn’t be). I could ask numerous pained questions about the pointless nature of some translations, such as changing “OK” to “kk” (This one makes precisely zero sense to me).
However, I’m far too wound up now, so it’ll hav 2 w8. lololol! (That’s another one – if “lol” is “laughing out loud”, why in the name of sanity would you emphasise your laughter by saying “laughing out loud out loud out loud”?!)
Yes, I am old. I accept it. Then again, this sort of thing would have upset me just as much when I was 10 years old, so maybe it’s got nothing to do with my age, and more to do with the fact that I’m a bit of a geek…