The Slippery Slope of Language Decay

This rant over at YesButNoButYes.com pretty much echoes my own feelings on the subject of people who are 2 lzy 4 vwls.  I understand that when texting on a smartphone, eliminating letters is expedient, but that doesn’t excuse what to me looks like sloppy and juvenile written communication in other media.

But wait – I just used an abbreviation myself: “doesn’t.”  Under my uptight old school rules, why is this allowed and not, “u r 2 kewl”?  This is a question I am struggling with.

There are many ways that the “Queen’s English” is being butchered every day.  Let’s consider them in increasing levels of brutality.  The most gentle form of pressure is the Americanization of the language.  Here in Canada, we have an especial issue with this, because we are not as strict as Britain, but pride ourselves on not completely selling out to the USA.  So Canadians are allowed to use a z instead of an s in Americanize, but we’re supposed to pronounce that letter zed instead of zee.  And we’re supposed to write cheque instead of check and draught instead of draft and pronounce the military rank below captain leff-tenant.

But the trouble is, we are widely divergent on how closely we observe those rules.  My daughter is being taught in grade 2 to spell colour  without the u and say x-y-ZED.  So I am tempted to say, “Hey – languages evolve.  Loosen up a bit.  What’s so important about that missing U?”

The next form of decay is where “lazy” spellings of words – that even Americans would acknowledge as being incorrect – become acceptable.  Examples of this are lite and tonite.  They’re in many dictionaries now.  That doesn’t seem to hurt anyone, why should I let it bother me?

Worse than lazy spellings becoming words, sometimes outright errors get beatified.  One of my favourite spelling errors that will doubtless make it onto dictionaries soon is “bonify.”  I’ve seen it in ads a couple of times.  It means “verify” or “make good”, and its etymology is the mispronunciation of bona fide (fee-day) as fied, leading to the belief that it’s all one word, “bonified,” which is logically the past tense of bonify!  So, what’s wrong with that?  As long as everyone knows what it means, who cares where it came from?

Of course, we also have acronyms that become words, but this is nothing new: scuba, OK, and fubar paved the way decades ago for LOL, OMG and WTF.  So how can I have a problem with that?

Then there’s the deliberate invention of new words, or the deliberate misspelling of existing ones, often to confuse parents and other people in authority. “Pwn” and “hakorz” are examples of this, as is much of leetspeak.  This is (arguably) pretty cool, and (arguably) enriching the language rather than damaging it, so where’s my beef?

Which brings us to texting shorthand, which I opened with.  It further destroys words that are likely not real words and not spelled correctly and already Americanized to start with.  And it really bugs me.  But why does it bug me, when I extended the welcoming hand of tolerance and love to all those other “evolutionary” steps?  The answer is, I don’t know.  I have to chalk it up to being a crotchety old k00+.

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