OMG: why's everybody talking in txt?

There goes the English language.

A look at this phenomenon, from the AP:

“ILY!” Susan Maushart’s 16-year-old daughter often calls out over her shoulder as she leaves the house. Sure, actual words would be better. But Mom knows not to complain.

“A mother of teenagers is pathetically grateful for an ‘I love you’ no matter what form it takes,” she observes.

Then there are the various forms of “LOL” that her teens use in regular parlance – it’s become a conjugable verb by now. And of course, there’s the saltier acronym used by son Bill: “WTF, Mom?!” But before you judge, note that former VP candidate Sarah Palin just used that one in a TV interview. And CNN’s Anderson Cooper used it on his show the other night.

Acronyms have been around for years. But with the advent of text and Twitter-language, it certainly feels like we’re speaking in groups of capital letters a lot more. It’s a question that intrigues linguists and other language aficionados – even though they’ll tell you they have absolutely no concrete research on it.

“It’s fascinating,” says Scott Kiesling, a socio-linguist and professor at the University of Pittsburgh. “What’s interesting to me as a linguist is figuring out which words get picked up, and why. What is it that makes OMG and WTF and LOL so useful that they spread from the written to the spoken form?”

One possibility, Kiesling proposes, is that some of these acronyms actually become a whole new thought, expressing something different than the words that form them. For example: “You wouldn’t say, ‘OMG, that person just jumped off a cliff,’” he explains. “But you’d say, ‘OMG, do you see those red pants that person is wearing?’”

Which brings us to WTF, an acronym that needs no translation. When Palin used the expression recently in a Fox News interview – twice in two sentences, actually – some pundits were a little shocked. (Palin was playing on the president’s “Win the Future” message in his State of the Union speech.)

“That’s going to be a tough one for her to come back from and explain,” remarked conservative commentator Pat Buchanan on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Host Joe Scarborough simply shook his head and said: “Not very presidential.”

Read more.

Comments

  1. I don’t mind the use of those acronyms in the realm of texting, but as a teacher…I was offended by their usage in student writing assignments. What was even more annoying was the fact that most students didn’t see the problem!

  2. I see why they’re necessary for texting – keeping the number of characters down etc but it drives me nuts to see these abbreviations creeping into normal written communications – emails etc. Comes across as a bit lazy.

  3. VERY tacky for a ‘sort of possible’ presidential candidate…I think that many voters would be turned off by Palin’s use of that acronym. I saw this on Fox a while ago and I was pretty disgusted that she used this crude ‘play on words’ and ‘innuendo’ regarding Obama’s SOTU. (There I go with text talk)
    I’d use it in a personal conversation, maybe in the privacy of my home with my husband, perhaps, to express my frustration or outrage (although, I’d just say the phrase, not the letters!) but for a possible candidate for any office in a public forum? I think not.
    Sarah Palin- you lost my respect after this. Presidents and Governors and Representatives and Congressmen need to act with decorum…the rest of the world can use contemporary acronyms, but you are considering higher office. I’m equally disappointed and disgusted with Joe Biden for his ‘overheard’ comment using the F-bomb earlier this year.

  4. I’m equally disappointed and disgusted with Joe Biden for his ‘overheard’ comment using the F-bomb earlier this year.

    Then you don’t know the difference between a private utterance being picked up by microphones and a deliberate use of language in public. Your use of scare quotes is absurd

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