ÜberTech

U Write Bieber Not Beeber (Why English Teachers Must Hate SMS)

Summary:Imagine how fast Middle English would've evolved from its Germanic roots into today's slang-rich language if the early Anglo-Saxons had had text messaging and Twitter around.

I find actor Justin Long unbearable as the Mac commercial guy, but he told a funny story on the Jimmy Kimmel show this week. A teenage girl started texting him by mistake, thinking Long was her friend Eduardo, so he kept up the pretense for months, while mangling the language of William Shakespeare in ways that must haunt high school English teachers everywhere.

New York magazine has a summary and all of the video excerpts for your viewing pleasure. What was so funny, besides the length of the charade, was how Long raided UrbanDictionary.com in order to go overboard on today's teen/texting slang.

The girl started off: "Haha im srry 4 wat I told u in skool 2 day I was just pissted off when I don't know why."

Amused, Long wrote back and raised the slang stakes: "Oh snap- lol - I thought u wrrr a krazee prsn. Wen u saidd dat in skool, I wuz lyke "whaaaa???" butt gnow I'm like "oh okaye, laughing my ass off!". Omg I am so lol-ing right now."

Asked later why Long's cousin was so krazeee, he replied, "Cuz she just iz. Y is a tree a tree or a flea a flea 4 dat matter. Jst god's plan I suppoz."

To which she replied, probably scratching her head at Long's slip into profundity, "Um ok soo wat r u doing".

Long: "Nutheng, still psick tho ;("

Long: "Jest whached con ayr (Con Air) w nikolass caje- omg, it's sooo ghood!"

Long: "Hough iz skool?" (The way Long chooses misspellings that actually take longer to type is cleverly realistic.)

Long also writes that "I'm illin', and not in a cool "beastie boys"-way," that "I didn't meeeen to igknorr u - I jest haven't phelt like dooin anything x-ept watch tv and reeeed "cosmo gurl."

He defends his reading of Cosmo Girl magazine, writing "Ok foin, I read it once! Just WUNSC because I was at my proctologist's office and there just happened to be a copy lying there - so sue me!!! I read a very interesting article about Justin Beeber and his effect on the collective pituitary glands of prepubescent gurrls. It was actually kwyeet enlightening! What, do you only reeed "judgment weekly"?"

To which she replies: "U write bieber not beeber".

The easy takeway is that today's teenagers are hopelessly illin' n da edukayshun deparkmet.

But I also think that it illustrates how technology - both its power and its constraints (i.e. the 140/160 character limits of Twitter and SMS, respectively) - can be a huge force for shaping language, more than the best authors and playwrights and more than all of the English teachers in the world combined.

It's not surprising: there are estimates that 6.5 trillion text messages will be sent globally this year.

What is the right way to speak is after all, always changing. Today's English wouldn't be understandable to Anglos (of Anglo-Saxon fame) of the 13th century, as their Middle English was basically German under a different name.

So what's the slangiest slang you've used while texting? And can you imagine writing them in e-mail or even speaking them, in several years' time?

Topics: Enterprise Software, Collaboration, Hardware, iPhone, Mobility, Smartphones

About

Eric Lai tracks the latest news and trends in enterprise mobility. A veteran tech journalist most recently covering enterprise software for Computerworld, Eric joined Sybase, an SAP company in April 2010. Eric's views are his alone and do not necessarily represent those of SAP. This blog is sponsored by SAP.

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