MindBullets 20 Years


Textspeak dominates new English

No more split infinitives, apostrophes and double meanings. The English language revolution is over, and the reformists have won. Or rather, wun!

The battle to make English a phonetic language by accepting Americanisms and the abbreviations of textspeak and email has been raging in academic and political circles. But the war is over. This week the British parliament approved legislation that authorizes schools to teach ‘Nu Spik’. And in doing so, they’re simply falling in line with a worldwide trend driven by globalization and technology.

So ‘light’ becomes ‘lite’. ‘You’ becomes ‘u’ and then ‘you’re’ becomes ‘ur’ . ‘Danger’ becomes ‘danjer’, and so forth.

The purists are horrified and vow to fight on to save the ‘Queen’s English’, and the ‘language of Shakespeare.’ But King Charles, only six months on the throne, dashed their hopes when he declared that: “Nu Spik is rather fun!”

The reformist movement surged back in 2008 when John Wells, president of the Spelling Society, proclaimed that the informal language of texts, emails and chat rooms was the way forward, and that ‘archaic’ spelling was holding English children back in the changing world.

His views found quick favor among young people and a new generation of youthful politicians argued that English should be seen as a living, mutating language, growing with society.

“Old Inglish is confusin. So meni wurds with the saim meening. Most of the uther langwijes in Urope and the wurld r fonetik, so whi shudnt Inglish be?” asked NuLabor reformist William Brankett. “Deth to the apostrofee, thats wot I say!”

ANALYSIS >> SYNTHESIS: How this scenario came to be

1998: Email starts the rot
Email has become ubiquitous – and a new language starts to emerge. Why spell out an entire sentence when you can just ask: “what u doing 2nite?” Language purists decry “the breakdown of civilized conversation,” but that does little to stop the rising popularity of textspeak. “It’s faster and I can be as creative as I want. It’s a new language for today,” says student Ashleigh Musgrave.

2002: Texting creates new language
The astonishing popularity of SMS messages and other forms of mobile texting catches even the Telco market unawares. And because early text messages are limited in the number of available characters, ingenuity surges. Words like ‘great’ quickly become abbreviated to ‘gr8’; ‘see you’ becomes ‘c u’ and abbreviations like ‘lol’ (lots of love, or laugh out loud, depending on context) become as common as ‘smileys’ – grinning or frowning faces made up from text characters.
The purists continue to sniff, but young people love the new freedom with language.

2005: Call for English reform
The battle to ‘reform and modernize’ English becomes a hot topic in Britain. But the rest of the world looks on in mild bemusement, as ‘Nu Inglish’ has already become a reality outside of the UK. Americanisms and American spelling (for example labor instead of labour, and the ubiquitous ‘z’ instead of the English ‘s’, as in ‘harmonize’) have become commonplace.
And spreading technology drives the change even faster, as email and texting become the glue that binds the world…and the language of email and texting the new Esperanto.

2008: The battle hots up
The debate starts reaching the legislators. The reformists argue – and social scientists can only agree – that any living language grows and mutates. New Scientist magazine put the case for change eloquently in a 2008 cover story: “Only 1600 years ago, the people who spoke the languages that would form the core of English had not yet migrated to England. A thousand years ago, English was a language so different from our own you’d have to learn it as a foreign language; very few people can understand Beowulf in its original Old English. The 14th-century Middle English of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales needs to be updated to make it fully intelligible. Even the unmistakably modern English of Shakespeare can be hard to understand, and that’s only 400 years old.”

2012: Moves to change the rules
The first signs of official support for reforming English appears, as a Bill is introduced into the British Parliament to teach ‘Nu Spik’ in schools. A group of new young politicians make “Deth to the apostrofee” their rallying cry, and win surprising support from young and middle class voters. “Spiking posh iz onli for the toffs enihow,” says train driver Sid Bakamjee. “Letz tok Inglish that evriwun unnerstans.”
But the traditionalists, headed by Oxford languages professor Sir Wilbur Higgleton, swear to fight to the last drop of blood! “It’s about preserving the subtlety, nuance and beauty of our language,” he thunders. “English is not computer-speak; it is a culture to be defended.”

2014: The war is wun
The battle is over! The British Parliament – now known as Parlimint – passes legislation approving the development of a ‘Nu Spik Inglish’ curriculum for schools. Traditionalists are furious, but rage turns to apoplectic astonishment when newly crowned King Charles throws his weight behind the reformists, saying that English must be allowed to grow and modernize, and that he finds “Nu Spik rather fun!”
So wot do u fink of that?

Warning: Hazardous thinking at work

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