ÜberTech


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

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.

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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: ÜberTech, Collaboration, Hardware, iPhone, Mobility, Smartphones

Eric Lai

About Eric Lai

I have tracked technology for more than 15 years, as an award-winning journalist and now as in-house thought leader on the mobile enterprise for SAP. Follow me here at ÜberMobile as well as my even less-filtered musings on Twitter @ericylai

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7 comments
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  • Leet speek it ain't

    [i]But I also think that it illustrates how technology - both its power and its constraints [...] - 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. [/i]

    I'm not sure it's being "shaped" so much as it's becoming hopelessly and shamelessly bastardized. Ouch.

    Since we all know typing is a pain, keystroke shorthand in the form of hacker slang and handy acronyms finds its origins in various university think labs, and of course the original Arpanet research community. An even greater uptake came with the arrival of seminal computer communication networks like FidoNet (BBS) and Usenet, and thereafter the Internet.

    Where net jargon - and netspeak slang in all its convoluted glory - has taken off to since that time is beyond even the original practitioners' wildest dreams. It's more of a hybrid of say California Valley Girl speak slamming headlong into Pidgen as spoken by the locals on teh Islands of Hawaii. One thing I can say with certainty: it isn't all l33t leet speek. w00t ;)
    klumper
    • RE: U Write Bieber Not Beeber (Why English Teachers Must Hate SMS)

      @klumper Agree - the emerging Pidgin is a result of hacker technology + teen slang with a tiny mix of hacker verbage (but only proportional to their #s in the mass culture).
      ericylai
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  • 'Britons' as used here should be 'Anglos'

    <i>What is the right way to speak is after all, always changing. Today's English wouldn't be understandable to Britons of the 13th century whose Middle English was basically German under a different name. </i>

    Just a small correction: The Britons by the medieval ages had largely been pushed aside - beyond certain numbers who were absorbed - by the prevailing Anglo-Saxons from their invasions and conquests. Their ostracization was further impacted by subsequent invasions from Scandinavians (Danes and Vikings) and Normans from France, all of whom had a direct impact on the evolution and racial amalgamation of England.

    The original Britons who remained intact - who were Celtic by makeup rather than Germanic (the Celts being distant relatives to the Germanic peoples much like the Gauls were) - can be found in the outlying western regions of the country, i.e. Wales, Cornwall, a portion of Cumbria, and in places like Brittany in northern France, where many emigrated to after the extended invasions.

    Some of these Bretons have retained their various native Celtic (Brythonic) languages to this day, though it remains an ongoing struggle.
    klumper
    • RE: U Write Bieber Not Beeber (Why English Teachers Must Hate SMS)

      @klumper You are totally right - I meant to write Anglos, not Britons (wrongly referred to everyone by implied nationality when there was none at this time, just different ethnic groups ala Anglos, Normans, Saxons, Britons, etc).
      ericylai
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