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i see ur a moran, lol

By Shamus
on Thursday May 15, 2008
Filed under:


Shawn touches on a subject near and dear to my heart, which is the practice of lazy people to attempt to do business using the voice of a child. Shawn actually received an email which read thus:

can i get logo in black if not i can do that logo just let me know thank u

Now, I don’t think of myself as overly pedantic when it comes to the written word. I have typos and spelling errors on this site often enough that I have no room to criticize others. I’m not faulting people who make simple errors in the course of business correspondence. I am faulting people who can’t even be bothered to try, who communicate by staring fixedly down at the keyboard, spewing out a formless stream of words and hitting “send” without so much as a glance at what the result was.

In the last ten years or so this has been growing in popularity. Nobody ever sent me email in this condition during the early parts of my career, but in the last ten years it’s become increasingly common. What is causing this? The rise of phone-based text messaging? The educational system? Are we being infiltrated by aliens who mimic our habits in every way except that they can’t grasp the most rudimentary rules of our written word?

In my view it shows an outright contempt for the recipient if you’re not even willing to fully type out the word “you”. What kind of savings are you getting by not typing out the y-o? What are you doing with all that extra time?

In the 50’s it was common for the average office worker to wear a full suit, tie, hat, jacket, overcoat, etc. The dress code was oppressive by today’s standards. Sock suspenders were sometimes required. Now, I do not miss those days, and I see no reason to return to them. I certainly don’t think it makes sense to spend your day attempting to write software while wearing twenty pounds of heavy, starched, dry-clean-only clothing.

But the coming generation seems to regard sentence structure the way I view suit jackets in August: As a needless formality and a tiresome encumbrance. Is this what it’s going to come to? In ten years when I send an email like…

Thanks so much for the designs, Shawn. Would it be possible to change the logo to black before launch? If not we can go with what you have here.



…is my correspondence going to be laughed at, like the old guy who keeps wearing a tie when everyone else in the office is dressed in sandals and ironic t-shirts?

Comments (179)

1 2 3

  1. Jeremiah says:

    Well if you’re going to be laughed at, I’ll be getting laughed at with you. It’s difficult to properly express my anger and annoyance at those kind of messages.

  2. Lukasa says:

    The worst thing is that students are beginning to accidentally slip into ‘text-speak’ during major pieces of written work such as essays. I really do think that it’s important to encourage people to write their sentences in complete English, especially in emails. I’ve never understood why ‘text-speak’ is used in emails, as they imply a certain length of time spent writing anyway. Why not make it presentable?

  3. Ed says:

    I’m a teacher at a rural school east of Oklahoma City. The future does not seem to hold much promise. The language that started on AIM has moved into the realm of cell phone texting. Every student I teach regardless of socio-economic status has a cell phone and they text constantly. Papers are rife with phonetic abbreviations and misspellings. Many students are incapable of understanding that their word choice is not actually a legitimate means of formal communication.

  4. Eric Meyer says:

    Yes, they’ll laugh at you, just like they will me. Hell, I’ll still be trimming quoted material and interleaving my replies instead of top-posting, which already elicits derisive laughter.

  5. Scott says:

    I can understand the abbreviations and l33t when you are gaming or texting when time is of the essence, but in a professional setting it blows my mind that people “communicate” like this.

  6. JFargo says:

    Every day I get emails that look similar to what Shawn’s business contact sent him. When it’s family or friends, I gently correct them, but what the hell am I supposed to do when it’s my boss?

  7. LazerFX says:

    I’m amazed that people get away with this sort of thing in actual business communications. We deal with customers from across 8,000 miles of distance, with many different languages. Often they have trouble making themselves fully understood in English, so it is imperative that, when we write, it is as clear as possible, so that they can understand.

    It’s not communication, it’s just laziness.

  8. Daosus says:

    Admittedly I’ve not had a lot of job experience, but when I write E-Mails, I treat them just like a letter. So far, no complaints. Honestly, it doesn’t need to be Shakespeare, nor do you have to fill the page with pointless blather. A simple, two sentence email is just fine. No one will mind being called by their name and title (or just first name) or receiving a friendly farewell. But neither of those is really necessary. The key is being able to read a message without having to decipher it.

  9. JT says:

    It’s only going to get worse as the integration between devices & formats continues. E.g., I can post a blog item by emailing a specific address; I can send a text message to a phone number from a web page; I can type a text message on my cell phone and have it emailed to an x@y.com address rather that to a phone number (maybe that’s what happened in Shawn’s case); I can fax a document to a virtual number where it will be converted to a scanned attachment in an email.

    People will start trending towards the “easiest” rather than the most proper (“Slouching towards Gomorrah” I believe is the colloquialism). I for one still use proper capitalization & punctuation in my text messages – ‘course, I’ve got a smartphone w/a QWERTY keyboard, so it would feel strange to me to do any different. I’m also lucky that I’m in an old-school company (financial services, been around since 1930 or so) that still values propriety. We use Sametime IM so in that medium the rules are a little lax but there’s still a marked difference between that and email.

  10. Mark says:

    i think ur riteing is gud u shud rite mor liek this shamus

    Sorry, it had to be done. I agree 100%. I’m sick of trying to decipher the real meaning from someone’s lazy attempt at communication. It’s like they’re missing the entire point of language: standardization. Then again, we’re programmers, Shamus. There is a certain pedantic nature that is instilled in us from the get-go. I do try not to pass the “pedantic” argument to my English-to-MarkThought compiler as often, but I still get the urge to send them the English-equivalent of a W3C compliance report.

  11. Luke Maciak says:

    Wow, this emails looks remarkably similar to the stuff that hits my mailbox every day from my students. Here are some samples.

    Sigh, I love emails that have no subject and something like this in the body:

    hello quick question for the hw 2 is it du next class

    Also, did you ever see Idiocracy? The main character – average guy, chronic under-achiever gets cryo-frozen, and wakes up in the distant future and finds out he is the smartest man alive.

    Also everyone laughs at him because he “speaks like a gay” – apparently due to the fact he articulates his words, uses full sentences, and doesn’t say “um” every other word. :P

    I think that movie, while silly over-the-top is eerily prophetic at the same time considering current trends like the one you described here.

  12. pdwalker says:

    No, you are right to be annoyed.

    It is not too much to ask to expect people to communicate properly.

    Perhaps I am getting too old, but this thing just annoys the shit out of me.

  13. Vyolynce says:

    Someone on one of the message boards I frequent has this as her current signature. I smile every time I see it.

  14. asterismW says:

    I work in the IT department of my company. The worst email I ever got was a reply to my question of what machine someone had installed Google Toolbar on (which isn’t allowed). The email, in full:

    “It was in the tent in 2300 bay but it have stayed with my hole set up thought the building”

    It took me a good five minutes to figure out what the “tent in 2300 bay” was, but I have yet to decipher “hole set up thought the building”.

    Another annoyance? People who put the entirety of their email in the subject line. Anyone who does that can expect me to ignore them for a good day, at least.

  15. Gary says:

    When I first read that in Shawn’s Livejournal, I thought that the customer was saying that he could make the logo black. That, I think, is the real problem. I can understand 1337. I don’t mind it in online RTS games (or similar venue) . But when people begin to make it so that I don’t know what the intent of their speech was… *sigh* Even idiocracy was able to get that across, even with their insane grammar idiocies.

    EDIT: I’m 20 and go to Ohio State University. And, while I have no idea how my classmates or many of my friends write emails, I always endeavor to use proper letter format when email my professors (friends a bit less so, but I still use proper grammar and spelling). All I know is that when I do that, those to whom I am sending emails respond in a similar manner.

  16. Dev Null says:

    It annoys the heck out of me too. But for an interesting serendipitous take, check out this article that was right behind yours on the feed reader Shamus:

    Instant messaging ‘a linguistic renaissance’ for teens

    I’m not sure I agree with the conclusions they’re drawing, but it amused me that they showed up together like that…

  17. Annon says:

    Maybe I’m strange, but I use proper spelling and punctuation in text messages as well. I normally have auto-complete on (which can be weird sometimes–I can’t name how many times “he” became “if” without my noticing), but still, it takes extra effort to format it right.

    I don’t really get angry at people who don’t write coherently in communicating with me, but I prefer and appreciate it if they do, and endeavor to do the same.

  18. Solka says:

    I will probably laughed at alongside you, Shamus. But I think it’s gonna be worse for me..

    ..since I’m 22.

    All my “official” emailing (ex: to college teachers, professionnals, etc..) all have the standard welcoming word, the usual ending comment (have a good day), and complete signature. I guess I’m older than my age..

    But about the message up-there. If I receive such email, I’ll be torn between outright ignoring it, or sending it back to the sender with the comment “You better rewrite this in actual english”

    @Annon: so do I. In FREAKING TEXT MESSAGE! :) Off course, I sometime use abvs, but it’s the exception rather than the norm. (luckily, I don’t get billed for every txt msg)

    @AsterismW: I don’t understand the 2300, care to translate?.. but I think that “hole set up thought the building” means “whole setup trought the ???????”

  19. Laurel Raven says:

    i can has gud english nao pleez

    Funny thing, first time I typed that, I capitolized and used proper punctuation, including a comma…then realized that comma usage is anathma to these people.

    I deal with people sending me stuff like this all the time. I’m fortunate that my boss prefers good sentence structure, proper punctuation, and so forth…sometimes, I’ll even send more important letters to him to go over to proofread for me. Then, I get things like Shamus’s example above.

    Sometimes, when it is sent by someone in a hurry on a Blackberry while driving (seems to be becoming more and more common these days) I can almost forgive it (those keyboards are inhumanly small), but I also get it from people who are sitting in chat with me, professional to professional, while I’m trying to fix a problem of theirs. Maybe the problem is that they type so slow that two letters really does make a difference? Maybe I’m being overly judgemental; that since I type much faster, I don’t understand how difficult it is for someone who types slow (no networking professional in the world has a good excuse for typing slow, however, unless they are missing a hand or have partial paralisys in one or both of their hands).


  20. Jeysie says:

    I’ve had people tell me that they don’t consider posting anywhere on the Internet important enough for proper spelling/grammar, and express incredulity that I try to type using full, proper English sentences even in IM/IRC. So I suppose I’m not entirely surprised that this sort of laziness has spilled over into the business realm as well.

    I am as disappointed as you, though. It shows a lack of respect, certainly… that someone doesn’t consider communicating with me “important” enough to make at least a token effort at proper communication. Plus, it does make them look like morons, especially since several of the people I know online with impeccable English skills are native speakers of a different language. Meanwhile, the people who do have English as a native language don’t use it properly. Oi.

    I wonder if this sort of laziness shows up in speakers of other languages?

  21. Gahaz says:

    The issue that raises its head, I think, is an interesting one. There is a fine line where text speak crosses the line. But there is also approaching that line to an extent that can be acceptable. If the structure is proper, why question shortened words?

    “lol, that sho last nite was lulz worthy! wat did u think of the dinner? nasty. w/e, c u to nite.”

    That correspondence is just dripping with text speak, but does anyone actually NOT understand what it says? The language is being altered by trends in society, and this has been going on since we were able to talk and write. When was the last time you used the word “Thou” in conversation?

    The only issue that really arises for me is the lack of structure. I can easily get over the text (or txt) speak, but not the lack of any kind of sentence structure, and thats the issue with the email you have posted. I understand the degrading of proper grammar of the younger generation coming up behind us, but is it really degenerating? They will replace us, and in so doing change things to fit themselves. Degeneration is the wrong word, its an evolution of the language that seems odd and strange to us.

    If an English speaker from the 18th century popped into our society today he would be lost.

  22. ebede says:

    I’ve been a rather silent reader. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog and comic creations. I understand the pain that instant messaging is bringing to many of our eyes. But when you mentioned that everyone would laugh at you. I just couldn’t resist. They won’t be laughing at you or me or anyone else. They will be..


  23. Laurel Raven says:

    Was reading the article posted by Dev Null (love the name, by the way), when I came across this line:

    “He and Tagliamonte analysed more than a million words of IM communications and a quarter of a million spoken words produced by 72 people aged between 15 and 20.”

    All I could think was “How in the hell did they stay SANE?!” I’ve seen what teens come up with in IMs and it ain’t pretty! That’s not even factoring in the weird, contrasting, eye-bleeding colors they often use.

  24. Phil says:

    “It's like they're missing the entire point of language: standardization.”

    Uh, no. The entire point of language is communication. Standardization is an important tool to help achieve that goal, but it is not the goal itself.

  25. wintermute says:

    I have a stock reply that I sue in these cases:

    Sir / Madam,
    I’m afraid that I’m unable to read your email. I can only suggest that you find someone literate to translate it into English, and re-send it to me.

    I look forward to finding out what you were trying to say,

    More often than not, people comply. But a small number have been offended, so you might want to use caution, if these are coming from your boss / biggest client / spouse.

  26. Oleyo says:

    My main annoyance isn’t even with shortened speech like “u” for you, or misspellings. We have an amazing ability to understand words that have been horribly mangled. What I hate most is when people just dive headlong into that formless string of words you described, without any form of context or introduction, or dare I say, pleasantries?

    As if we are there inside their head completely aware of why they are speaking with us and what they want to accomplish. It is just plain selfish and rude not to wonder how the text will look to someone who isn’t, you know…you.

    Imagine walking up behind some random person on the street, tapping them on the shoulder and immediately launching into a rambling monologue.

    Who IS this person?!

    WHY are you speaking to me?!

    WHAT do you WANT?!


    Oh man this makes me angry. Serenity now…

  27. Robert says:

    u r lam u just dont get the young pepl we hav betr things 2 do!

  28. Robert says:

    Ooh, on second thought I see I’ve betrayed my faux-l33t status by actually spelling out two of the long words.

  29. Telas says:

    While language will evolve (always has; always will), to claim that laziness on the part of the speaker is “evolution” is plain silly. If you can’t be bothered to type actual vowels, I should’t be bothered to read or even reply. If someone sent me that message out of the blue, I’d ignore them or reply, “Can you put that in the form of a paragraph?”

    Worse, this kind of thing is downright rude. By contracting every possible word, you’re saving yourself a bit of work, but you’re also forcing me to do more work to translate it into English. It’s like sending me your resume via COD.

    The solution? “You know, when you do that l33t 5p33k thing, it kinda makes you look like a teenager, and not in a good way.”

  30. GregB says:

    Maybe we are slowly changing English into another language that uses symbols that represent sounds like Japanese/Chinese and other such languages. Then, once we have reached that point, we will devolve into a system of grunts and outbursts. Maybe its for the best.

    @Oleyo > I remember seeing something on the net that was some sort of test where the first and last letters of the words were correct, but the rest were misplaced. It was amazing that the human brain can figure out what the word is just by seeing what the first and last letters are and how many letters are in the word. I wish I could find it again.

  31. Solka says:

    you should have written: u r lam, d’t get the yg ppl, we hav betr thgs 2 do!

  32. baac says:

    I’m the editor of a magazine, and a few months back I had a girl approach me for an internship through an email constructed entirely like the example you provided. Seriously – you want a job on an international print masthead, and you can’t spell or use punctuation?!?

    I wrote back saying that, with luck, one day she’d be able to get a job and afford that punctuation she’s always wanted. I never heard back from her.


  33. onosson says:

    You can’t really fault kids for this situation. They are only after one thing – to find their place in society. The society they find themselves in is rife with texting, so they naturally learn the skill, and indeed excel at it far better than any adult could hope to.

    I think what we need to understand about language is that is not so much consciously learned, as unconsciously absorbed. When the form of written language they predominantly encounter (in terms of frequency) is texting, then that is the form they will master.

    I don’t doubt very much that those who enter fields where it is really necessary to master formal English spelling and grammar will learn it, and excel at it in just the same way. What we need to understand is that, however obscure it may seem, texting is not random and without rules and form. Take Shamus’ example from the post:

    “can i get logo in black if not i can do that logo just let me know thank u”

    All that is really missing from this, in terms of formal standard English, is punctuation, capitalization, the word “the”, and the full spelling of “you”:

    Can I get the logo in black? If not I can do that logo. Just let me know. Thank you.

    I agree that it is disconcerting to find this coming from someone trying to DO BUSINESS, but also keep in mind that many other standard written languages do just fine without capitalization, punctuation, or articles (“the” and “a/an”).

  34. onosson says:


    Some would argue that the entire point of language is self- and group-identification… communication, and subsequent standardization, are just byproducts.

  35. Melfina the Blue says:

    Oh my god.
    *begin rant*
    Stop murdering my language, you plebeian imbeciles! Go find another one to do horrible things to!
    *end rant*
    I feel much better now. Cleansed. Now, if I could just convince the help desk that I do not understand tickets that start with plz need d co serial

  36. Shawn says:

    The worst part about that email was the guy who sent it to me is in his 40s. And the entire thing was bold and huge.

  37. Shandrunn says:

    I always try to use correct spelling, grammar and punctuation. It’s a matter of personal pride for me. Whenever I make a mistake and don’t spot it in time to fix it, I feel terrible because I must look like an idiot.

  38. Gahaz says:


    To you, it feels rude, and in certain scenarios it is. But its a movement of the written word. You can’t stop it. They are going to out live all of us, and will win. In a professional situation it is inappropriate, in an unstructured sentence it is. But you can’t win, so please feel disappointment, but please take away your bold rudes and what not. If someone sends you a social email that contains such literation and you respond with a “Please fix your grammar” then you are a sh*tty friend. If you are a human resource manager and deal with email resumes, of course junk any that use txt speak.

    Why people become offended at online correspondence, at a social/discussion level, containing “txt speak” is really frustrating. If you are in a forum discussing how relevant the newest Harry potter book is, get over it. It drives me insane when in social forums and whatnot people will chastise people for their improper grammar.

    “Maybe we are slowly changing English into another language that uses symbols that represent sounds like Japanese/Chinese and other such languages. Then, once we have reached that point, we will devolve into a system of grunts and outbursts. Maybe its for the best.”

    But we are not discussing pronunciation. Very little of this spills into actual conversation (contrary to what goofy phone commercials would lead you to think). We are talking about social interaction over our new online/phone medium.
    Is it going to be taught in schools? No, of course not. Is it going to be more recognized as time moves on? yes, and people will complain less and less. No one will be mocked for using proper English, but they will be in a minority. And you can claim to be better than others by using it, but no one will care.

    Even Luke Maciak, who seems to be a teacher of some sort, included a smiley in his post up there, and on his blog post used btw.

  39. wintermute says:

    The paragraph you remember was very carefully crafted to still be easy to read. Some information here, but I remember a far more detailed analysis, somewhere…

  40. Matt` says:

    I mostly aim for precision, clarity and good flow. To that end typos get fixed, punctuation gets used and for God’s sake I’m not dropping vowels out just to save myself a key-press.

    If I wanted to sound retarded, I cud typ lk ts, but as has been stated it just adds a burden to the recipient to figure out what in hell’s name I was trying to say.

    Spelling and grammar can evolve, it’s when the language starts to fall apart into a mess of concepts that it really bugs me – ambiguity may not be unavoidable all the time, but a comma or full stop in the right place can clear up a lot of things.

    Actually I lie, typos bug me too. I just can’t help but notice the little errors.

    (NB I’m 17)

  41. Telas says:

    Onosson @ 33: You can't really fault kids for this situation.

    Yes you can; they’re the ones typing this atrocious stuff. They’ve certainly been exposed to proper English at some point in their short lives, and were certainly given the opportunity and incentive to learn it.

    We can definitely help by pointing out that it’s not appropriate behavior outside of actual text messaging, but we can’t type their emails for them.

    I’m 41, very well educated, and have a wide range of life experience (blue collar, white collar, military, travel, etc). The more I see of this world and the people in it, the less I buy the “blame society” line.

  42. Sandrinnad says:

    That sort of thing in anything but extremely informal correspondence drives me in-freakin’-sane.

    Email is ambiguous enough to start with because there’s no other cues – no tone of voice, no body language – so the language needs to be as precise as possible to make the meaning clear. That’s why they tell you not to use industry jargon with clients and why some rather nasty arguments get started via email. (and why some people overuse smilies :D )

    (aside – the 18th century person wouldn’t be completely lost. They wouldn’t have the same cultural references, and the meanings of some words have changed and new ones have been added, but the language itself hasn’t changed that much since then.)

  43. Julian says:

    One possibility to consider is that things aren’t getting any worse. Fifteen years ago, we could have had just as many people who communicated lazily and badly, but they weren’t using any kind of written communication at all.

  44. Gary says:

    @ Gahaz
    “But we are not discussing pronunciation. Very little of this spills into actual conversation (contrary to what goofy phone commercials would lead you to think).”
    I’m sorry, but this is wrong. A few years back a cell phone company (Motorola, I think) began their walkie talkie promotion with the tag line “where’re you at?” Now I hear that constantly, and I HATE it because of that dangling preposition. This especially annoys me because it is actually SHORTER to make it grammatically correct. All you have to do is get rid of the “at.”

    (quick aside: How do I use bold in Shamus’s comments?)

  45. Gahaz says:


    “Yes you can; they're the ones typing this atrocious stuff. They've certainly been exposed to proper English at some point in their short lives, and were certainly given the opportunity and incentive to learn it.”

    You really are bitter aren’t you? Did some txt speak escape and bite you?

    “We can definitely help by pointing out that it's not appropriate behavior outside of actual text messaging, but we can't type their emails for them.”

    Social emails and online correspondence lower than professional correspondence is fair game really. If friends, family and contacts can easily read it, why is there an issue?

    “I'm 41, very well educated, and have a wide range of life experience (blue collar, white collar, military, travel, etc). The more I see of this world and the people in it, the less I buy the “blame society” line.”

    And now we get to the base of it. Here is a prime example of classic internet weaponry, the “See my credentials for why I am right”. Even to take what you say at face level, which is always hard on the interwebs, what you are saying to any who read it is “Im right because I’m older and more well educated than them or you. See, my resume states that I am right.” The language that gets thrown around does not belong to anyone. Its a product of the society, not by the rules you believe need to be followed.

    Why does it offend you so much? In a business setting its really out of place. In a social setting its becoming completely acceptable. I really do believe they know that its improper, but use because its “their” way of doing things.


    Blame Hip-Hop for the “where you at” thing. Thta was a line used by the rapper “can’t remember his name” that they originally had pushing it.

  46. General Karthos says:

    I am a on the leading edge of the “coming generation” or perhaps on the trailing edge of the “generation that preceded it” (I turned 20 earlier this year) and the same stuff that annoys you, annoys me. I am what some would call a “grammar nazi”, and these messages annoy me intensely. Even when text messaging I use complete sentences, proper punctuation and perfect grammar/spelling. I ignore errors in other people so long as their messages are worth reading and are still legible.

    I put up with “u” and “c” in text messages only from my girlfriend, and even then it still causes a twinge of pain when I get a message from her that uses either of those letters in place of words. Even then, she’s not nearly so bad as those you describe (and some I have met) in that she writes in complete sentences in e-mail and so forth.

    I’ll admit that I look at the slow painful demise of the English language with something akin to unhappiness. Frankly, as a student of languages, I find English to be among one of the more beautiful and elegant languages on Earth, though it is surely one of the more difficult to learn.

    Oh, and if you want illiteracy, go to just about any forum on the internet. The larger it is, the greater the proportion of people who have never learned how to write properly. *Shudders* I avoid almost all forums like the plague. Even when I find a good one it takes me as much as a year before I will even register and put up a comment….

  47. Dirty Dan says:


    22 years old here, writing tutor at my university and future Latin teacher, so this is a topic near and dear to my heart.

    To address the use of “text-speak” in inappropriate situations, I proffer a blog that I once wrote:

    So I’m driving to work today when I see a sign at some random store on the side of the road; you know the kind of sign I’m talking about: those removeable block letters and such. Here’s what it said: “U WILL BE MISSED SGT DANIEL”. Even I can forgive the all caps, since I’m sure they didn’t have lower case. And I could see that “YOU WILL” could not have fit on that first line (it was somewhat of a narrow sign), so I’ll grant that something needed to be contracted. But that’s why we have actual contractions. You know, those zany word-like constructions with only parts of a word (or words) and some kind of wacky upside-down comma denoting where words have been taken out? No? *smack* Then go back to elementary school.

    Naturally, I can understand this failing on the part of the sign-composer if the collection of characters consisted of only alphanumeric symbols and no punctuation. In that case, I place the blame on the dumb*ss who bought a bunch of letters and numbers without any ****ing punctuation, since punctuation is essential to meaning. If you don’t believe me, read:

    so im driving to work today when i see a sign at some random store on the side of the road you know the kind of sign im talking about those removeable block letters and such heres what it said U WILL BE MISSED SGT DANIEL even i can forgive the all caps since im sure they didnt have lower case and i could see that YOU WILL could not have fit on that first line it was somewhat of a narrow sign so ill grant that something needed to be contracted but thats why we have actual contractions you know those zany word like constructions with only parts of a word or words and some kind of wacky upside down comma denoting where words have been taken out no smack then go back to elementary school

    Now, if you managed to actually read through all that nonsense and aren’t pissed off at it by now, stop reading my weblog. You won’t get it. So get back to work at [nonspecific unskilled labor position], because if you get fired from that you’re pretty ****ed.

    I don’t know about Sarge, but if that were me somehow, I’d be haunting that son of a b***h out of his mind.

    Now, to address the question of linguistic evolution, I offer this threat: it has been traditional to resist the relentless march of language. The advent of modern linguistics has led many professionals to be more lax about non-traditional constructions in language, because language is going to change no matter what we do. I agree with that last point, but I think that by making an effort we can slow down this change. And it is indeed significant to make this change as slow as possible.

    That’s because, throughout the history of English as a distinct language, there are only about 5 centuries that we can understand as it was first written. Anything older than that literally has to be translated before modern speakers can understand it. Yes, it is the nature of language that inefficient mechanisms will be rendered more efficient. But if we resist their acceptance, then it will be longer before they become mainstream. Once the “new language” becomes mainstream, it is only a matter of time before the “old language” is forgotten. And when that happens, the “old language” requires translation to be understood — effectively creating a barrier between old and new, across which only dedicated scholars can comprehend subtleties. How long before Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter are the next Beowulf (“Hwæt! WÄ“ Gār”Dena “¢ in geār”dagum / þēod”cyninga “¢ þrym gefrÅ«non, / hÅ« þā æðelingas “¢ ellen fremedon.”) and Canterbury Tales (“Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote / The droghte of March hath perced to the roote / And bathed every veyne in swich licour, / Of which vertu engendred is the flour;….”)?

  48. Dave says:

    I’m compelled to link to this comic by Lore Sjoberg, of Lore Brand Comics (and lately, Slumbering Lungfish and Wired). Says it all, really.

  49. Lain says:

    At first: I’m German, English is not my motherlanguage. I don’t have much practice in writing though I’m reading a lot.

    Sometimes I’m playing a little poker without real money.

    From a chat:
    “Ben”: “I’d a str8 like u 2.”
    “Sanchez”, a portoguese: “Please write in English”
    “Ben”: “I ain’t no good in English”
    Myself: “…then you must be American”
    “Ben”: “Yes.”
    Myself: “Ok…”

    After two cards he was gone.

    Sorry, people, but that one was obvious. But to be fair: Here in Germany the younger generation also have more and more problems with education. A lot of companies looking desperate for -> acceptable <- educated young peoples. With all tolerance for small mistakes within fastwritten letters: There are Masters of business administration, who can't calculate... and Masters of Law, who can't write a letter. It's a shame.

  50. Luke Maciak says:

    @Gahaz – Yes, it’s true – I use abbreviations such as btw, lol or wtf in casual settings such as my blog, or this place. I try to avoid them in official correspondence.

    Also, I don’t mind abbreviations such as btw or fyi in business related emails. As long as I can understand the message, and I don’t have to make a conscious effort to read it I’m fine. I teach an introductory computer class so even if I see this sort of grammar in homeworks and papers I just let it go.

    What I hate is the stream of consciousness thing – with it’s absolute lack of punctuation, structure and excessive abbreviation to the point where the whole thing is hard to read. After all, capitalization and punctuation is often the key. Compare:

    i helped my uncle jack off a horse

    I helped my uncle Jack, off a horse.

    Makes a world of difference.

  51. Gahaz says:

    Dirty Dan,

    Goodness, what a conflicting impression you put forth. Your web-log post makes you sound like a complete and utter @sshole, yet your over-all post here sounds like an educated individual curious, and a little apprehensive, of the shifting of the language. Even know the actual Lord of the Rings books are becoming close to it. I love them and read them on a regular basis (what real nerd doesn’t), but already some of the younger generation I talk to say they have seen the movies and “tried” to read the books. I always thought they were written in English…

  52. baac says:

    Hmmm… I’m not sure I’m swayed by the ‘evolving language’ theory. I think some of the cache of using language in this way comes from the fact that everyone over the age of 30 will have a hard time understanding it. It’s meant to be as exclusionary as it is efficient.

    To speak to some of the things Gahaz raises, I think the annoyance comes from a generational misunderstanding. You think Telas is imposing artificial rules, but for most people our age, it’s a huge sign of disrespect for people to try to communicate this way. To our generation, it’s basically saying: ‘I can’t be bothered. You’re not worth it.’ Generational misunderstandings work both ways… Neither generation likes it much when the wrong rules get applied.

  53. mistergreen says:

    I blame that on his age then. My father sends me e-mails the same way. Spelling was never his strong point. For punishments he used to mark pages in the dictionary and told me to copy each word there five times each. Once he used a medical dictionary, man that was harsh and I learned more then I really cared to from that one.

  54. Zukhramm says:

    Shortenings, contractions, skipping words. Sure! I can read that. I don’t like it, but I can read it. However, when you throw grammar and punctuation out the window I give up.

    If I don’t know where sentences ends I won’t be able to make much sence of some pieces of text. And if it doesn’t end with a question mark, how should I know it’s a question?!

    And the lack of question marks seems to affect how people read my writing aswell. People sometimes seem to answer my statements ended with a dot as a question, and answer something I didn’t even ask.

  55. Ian says:

    god u ned to stfu samus let ppl tipe how they wont u lamer fagot

    *shoots self*

    “Netspeak” needs to die, pronto.

  56. Gahaz says:

    I think people miss what i defend. Its the abreveations and txt words that can be approved and understood. If your just substituting words and using word stand ins then the hoopla is just nit picking. I still believe in sentence structure though. I said that in my first post up there somewhere.

    “I h8 u all. Wen u r rdy to talk, dont bother.”

    “I h8 u all wen ur rdy 2 talk don’t bother.”

    It seems juvenile to some, but its still there, and its not going away. Not to long ago “cool” was just a word used by teenagers….

    Dirty Dan, your edit was hilarious…

  57. Jez says:

    It’s like the song from one Strong Bad Email. “I don’t care how you spell things on the rest of the internet, but when you email me, you spell the whole damn word!”

    That sort of abbreviation is perhaps forgivable in a text message or online game, but in an actual business environment it’s shocking. It’s like table manners or dressing neatly, you’re showing that you have a baseline level of respect for the people you interact with.

    Typing like that in an email makes it harder, not easier, for everyone. The recipient will take longer to fully understand, and may even misinterpret, or may be so insulted as to not respond at all. Type it out properly the first time.

  58. Hal says:

    Hoo boy.

    When I taught freshman chemistry as a TA, I was left in the sad position of grading lab reports by the doe-eyed 18 year olds. Many of them were very intelligent, and have probably continued to excel in academia. Many were lazy, unwilling to put the work into the course that it required.

    And then there were those who thought like the writer of said email above.

    I always graded those poorly. Science is screwed if your scientists can’t share their findings in a coherent and understandable manner. The whining was always epic. “This is chemistry, not an english class,” I would hear. “Yes, but english is the preferred medium for communication in this class. Your job on these assignments is to convince me you understand the science behind what you did in lab. If you can’t write in clear english, then how do I know you’re thinking clearly?”

    They never liked hearing that. If the professors and teachers ever give in on that topic, society as we know it is doomed.

  59. Nova says:

    Canterbury tales? A step back from Shakespeare, sure, but still accessible by a sixteen year old (moi) with a little help. Once the hang of the language is got, then it’s little or no problem; it’s the cultural specifics that get you x__X You can understand them with some assistance, but it does take work.
    Beowulf? Totally unreadable. Difference between middle and old english. ‘course, the Canterbury tales is about five hundred years old, and was written during the formalisation of the english language when it was set down in writing, whereas Beowulf is a completely foreign culture about a thousand years ago.
    My point is, that until about the sixteen hundreds (I *could* be wrong on this one, but I believe it is about that point), there wasn’t really any formalised spelling or grammatical rules; people wrote things how they thought they were said – hence the many different spellings of Shakespeare’s name.
    What we are seeing here is in part a return to that – people are using utterly basic english to communicate as quickly as possible in a new digital format. So long as the person they are attempting to communicate with understands, why do they mind? Think of it perhaps as the way latin died out – it was still used for learned writings (think, say, an essay), but no longer was it every day speech. Eventually, it became a language which nobody spoke, and very few could read or write.
    Whilst this change in English is perhaps inevitable, I may be exaggerating; it is unlikely English will die in this form as a written language, although it may well do as a spoken one – I recently read an article which talked about english speakers in, say, Malaysia. It’s a common language which they can use to communicate, but we wouldn’t understand it, it’s so altered by their needs.

  60. Dirty Dan says:

    It’s probably the abundance of swearing and sarcasm. My blogs are largely intended for my personal friends moreso than than the general public, though I’d hardly condescend to call Shamus’ audience “the general public”. It was possibly also the general rage that someone was “honoring” or “paying respects to” a dead soldier by abbreviating “you” to “u”.

    As a side note, here’s my recollection of a humorous one-panel comic that’s posted in the writing center where I work:

    “I’ve returned this otherwise perfectly good typing paper from you because someone has printed jibberish all over it and signed your name.”

    The Writing Center: protecting typing paper from injurious jibberish.

  61. Jeff says:

    Whenever I make a mistake and don't spot it in time to fix it, I feel terrible because I must look like an idiot.
    Same here.

  62. kmc says:

    It seems there are two problems here. One is the shortening and otherwise adulteration of words, and one is the nonsensical grammar which might be aided by the unfortunately absent punctuation. I agree that grammar should be precise, because if you can’t think clearly about the words coming out of your mouth and the order in which they belong, I’m unlikely to trust whatever idea you’re trying to convey by haphazardly stringing those words together.
    The text speech is, to me, simply a different way to communicate. If I’m going to lunch, I might e-mail my boyfriend, “I’m going to lunch; I’ll see you later.” But if I’m in a really good mood, or I want to reference a joke between the two of us, I might say “goin’ 2 lunch, brb! ^.^” Yes. It’s text speak. Would I send it to my boss or coworkers? *insert derisive sneer* Pfft. No. The people who do this are the same people who don’t know how not to cuss in front of their grandmothers. Old phenomenon, new face.
    My credentials? Engineer, former military officer, 26-year-old female with a lot of similarly-aged Japanese friends. v(^.^)

  63. Terrible says:

    I don’t know if it saves time to write that way, but it takes me longer to read it and garner understanding of it.

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