According to my mother, whose job it is to remember this sort of thing, my first ever word was ‘dada’. My second was ‘banana’, or rather ‘bananananananana’ – I had no problem with the word, apparently, I was just a bit confused about when I should stop. My third word was ‘no’, which I used to say to everything and in a very no-nonsense and posh sort of way – ‘nyyoe!’ – and that’s about as far back as my mother can remember.
The point is that I’ve pretty much been using the English language as a means of communication from day one. Of course, my vocabulary has expanded quite a bit since my banananana days. In fact, I know now that ‘dada’ is the first word that most children utter, is practically universal and probably goes back to prehistory. Banana, on the other hand, comes from the word ‘banan’, which is Arabic for ‘finger’. As for ‘no’ – from the Old English ‘na’ – I actually sometimes remember to stick a ‘thank you’ on the end.
Now, all of the above is not mentioned purely in order to show everybody how brilliantly clever I am – (although it can’t hurt, can it?) – but it does serve to emphasise that when it comes to English, I can, more often than not, get by with a minimal amount of difficulty.
So imagine my surprise when I discovered a couple of days ago that I do not understand English anymore. It’s true. Apparently, somebody messed around with the language while I was busy ranting on about some other bone of contention, and now it’s different. Allow me to elaborate...
It was a friend’s birthday last week. I sent her the following message via SMS:
It’s your birthday! You can forget your past! You can forget your future! And you can forget your present too! Hahaha! XXX!
(This is what passes as the ultimate in humour in my world).
A mere three nanoseconds later, I received the following reply:
LOL ROFL Thx 4 msg UR a qt having c%l time ;o) XD XD. H2cus T2ul8r.B4n. Tcoy. XXX
I immediately phoned Dan Brown, the author of The Da Vinci Code, for help. He didn’t have a clue. His only advice was ‘don’t read it aloud – it may be the password to a voice-activated nuclear weapon’. He then hung up in order to continue drafting his letter of complaint to Tom Hanks.
Okay. So I made up the last paragraph. But can anyone help me with ‘XD’? I still have no idea what it means, and I refuse to text my friend for clarification just in case the answer is just as cryptic.
Unfortunately, at least from my point of view, SMS Language (also known as chatspeak, txt and txtspk!) is becoming increasingly popular among mobile phone and Internet users – i.e. everyone. So much so that a month ago in England, a teacher was forced by the Board of Education to correct an essay written entirely in this gibberish, handed in by a schoolgirl with the mental capacity of, shall we say, a small tin of fruit salad. The Board of Education reasoned that chatspeak has become, through popular use, a legitimate language, and therefore any work presented in this techno-gobbledegook is acceptable. Well, I’m sorry, but where do we draw the line? I for one firmly refuse to correct an essay presented to me in Morse Code, or some form of interpretive dance.
Incidentally, for those of you who don’t ‘speak’ txt, here’s the translation of my friend’s message:
I am laughing out loud and rolling on the floor laughing! Thanks for the message. You are a cutie! I’m having a cool time. (And I’m winking at you and smiling in a suggestive manner in order to express the idea of ‘... if you know what I mean’.) XD XD. Hope to see you soon. Talk to you later. Bye for now. Take care of yourself. Kiss kiss kiss.
This message is just wrong on so many levels. My pet hates are ‘lol’ and ‘rofl’. I doubt very much that my friend, having read my message, actually collapsed to the floor in a fit of maniacal laughter and stayed down there long enough to roll around for a bit. For a start, it would have made sending a reply physically impossible. As for ‘cutie’... don’t even get me started on that one.
Now don’t get me wrong... I’m not the kind of person who believes that all things more technologically advanced than the abacus are the work of Satan himself, and I can even, I suppose, understand the advantage of chatspeak when it comes to writing quick messages on a keypad the size of a postage stamp. But there is such a thing as taking it too far, as the story of the schoolgirl above clearly demonstrates. Last week, someone handed in an assignment to me where every use of the word ‘you’ was written as ‘U’ (He failed the course on principle, just in case you’re wondering – I wrote UFTCOP:) on his assignment before giving it back). Two days ago I told a joke and someone said – actually said! – LOL, when he clearly wasn’t.
The point is that ‘txtspk’ should stay where it belongs – in mobile phones and chatrooms, and nowhere else. I live in fear of my son’s first words being ‘dad-e’ or ‘BNNNNNNNNNNN’ – he knows the word, just not when to stop...
Anyway (neway), I’ve got to go (‘g2g’)... the Board of Education have just sent me an SMS complaining about me not grading ‘sum1’s ass’. Go figure.
PS. If anyone does know what XD means, please, please enlighten me!