no okay but here’s the thing about language.
it’s one thing to police spelling and grammar; it’s a douchebag thing to do, especially if you’re using it as a means of refuting an argument (“you spelled that word wrong, therefore I don’t have to listen to you!” that’s not an argument. even worse is “you used the wrong form of there/their/they’re, therefore you’re stupid, therefore you’re wrong,” which is not only an invalid argument, but ableist to boot!)—but, using “nonstandard” spelling and grammar can contribute to a loss of understanding and can bar effective communication. the reason we have a distinction between “there,” “their,” and “they’re” is to prevent ambiguous sentences! and the fact that they come from completely different roots, but, w/e.
the point is, effective communication by using “standard” spelling and grammar is cool and should be encouraged! whining about improper comma usage that, while breaking all the rules you might have learned in sixth grade, doesn’t create an ambiguous message, is not cool! and it also prevents a lot of freedom in creative writing, where breaking the rules of grammar is often required in order to convey a certain concept (see: my tendency to express a character’s thought process by use of lots of clauses with no periods, creating a rambling but still somewhat linear tone).
what I really take an issue with is people actively preventing the evolution of language—trying to stamp out neologisms, saying the use of a word that’s taken on a new definition over time is “wrong,” saying that any deviation from “standard” english (which, by the way, what? english has been evolving and changing since before it was called english. do we still write like chaucer? like shakespeare? give it a few centuries and people will have to re-transcribe and translate our english into whatever form of english they’ll use in the future, the same as we have to do with beowulf.
and that’s okay.
it’s beautiful. linguists are going to find the evolution of emoticons and hashtags and txtspk fascinating years from now. I certainly do!
TL;DR (which is a pretty cool neologism right there) LANGUAGE IS AWESOME, STOP TRYING TO PREVENT IT FROM AWESOMEING EVEN FURTHER.
A kindred spirit!
I love that you say “that’s okay”, because “okay” is a perfect example of a neologism. It comes from a time when newspapers—the first widely distributed written media of the moment—were fairly new, and with all the vagaries of printing as it existed at the time they used a lot of abbreviations to save time and space, and there were a lot of in-jokes mixed in there. “OK” was an abbreviation for “<em>all correct</em>” (stop and think about it) to sign off on the spelling and typesetting of a page and it eventually percolated around to the point that it was appearing in the papers and then in everyday speech and now it’s part of standard (if not excessively formal) English and even made the leap from abbreviation to world.
And that’s what’s happening with “TL;DR”, which is even written out as “teal dear” sometimes, in the same way that “OK” is often spelled as “okay”.
Similarly, the “ampersand” is called that because of school children reciting “and <em>per se</em> and” by rote at the end of the alphabet (it used to be a thing to end the alphabet with <em>&</em>.) It just got slurred over time. The symbol only exists because a ligature for the Latin word “<em>et</em>” likewise ran together over time.
How are these things different from “txtspeak”? They’re not. They’re the same kinds of shortcuts made for the same kinds of reasons and over time they gained currency. There’s nothing more “proper” about them for having happened in the past.
(I also love that you cite Chaucer and Shakespeare. The only reason we can say those dudes wrote according to any rules at all is because so many people that came after followed their lead.)
So, yes. Thank you. Awesome post is awesome.
I love both of these posts.
The purpose of language is to communicate. If the meaning of your words is understandable, then they have done their work. Whether or not they conform to a language textbook (which one? They contradict each other frequently).
And you know, I break the rules of grammar all the time. Because I start sentences with conjunctions. Drop the opening pronoun. Sentence fragments.
It’s how I think, so it’s how I type. It adds nuance. Gives my sentences meaning that isn’t present in textbook English. “Wanna come with?” means something different from “Do you want to come with me?”.
I’ve never had anyone say they couldn’t understand me because I said “the box I placed it in” rather than “the box in which I placed it”. Sure, it makes the grammar cops wince, but even they can still understand me - even if I did just split the verb there. And again there.
Yes. The human brain’s language processing capacity is a marvelously flexible thing and I’m sick of people pretending it isn’t to please prescriptivists.