I recently came across an excellent article by John Cunningham in the City Tribune entitled ‘In the age of the text, just where is English headed?’ Whereas I am a firm believer in the teaching of the 3 r’s: reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic I feel that it is more important that people are able to communicate with and understand each other as opposed to rote learning of spellings and pronunciation! Take for example a passage that John uses in his piece supplied by Dr Sean O Muircheartaigh of GMIT (an old tennis playing comrade of mine from the 80’s Fri Nite Dbls Crew): The pweor of the hmuan mind: Aoccdring to a rscheearch at Cmabridge Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in what oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoent tihng is that the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouhitt prbelm. Tihs is bcusae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lterer by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.
Fascinating isn’t it? I know from years of checking my own kid’s homework that very often the spelling can be wrong but to their ear it sounds correct! They tended to spell the word as they hear it and it makes sense a lot of the time. For instance banx and thankx, x instead of s, wud for wood, buk for book… this is surely the basis for txtn, sorry texting. Adults use abbreviations when texting all the time… I luv u 4 sayn dat! OK it’s not as Shakespeare would have perceived the use of the English language but surely it provides a speedy way to communicate, however another benefit of txt is that it gives the receiver a chance to think about their reply as opposed to a phone call. Most of us nowadays write very few letters (I never have stamps if I have to post anything!) we use e-mail. As John Cunningham pointed out to me you can still use proper English when composing an e-mail (don’t we all use spell-check anyway) but r u ever tempted to break into text? Some like author Peadar O Dowd deplore the use of texting as he pointed out gleefully when launching my book ‘1 Man’s Struggle 2 take It Easy!’ But others like my mum adapt brilliantly to the communication format and as well as texting me keeps in contact with many of her friends this way. She has perfect English but swiftly adapted to the use of u and 4 to save time. Now if only I could persuade her to get a laptop to e-mail her relatives and save a fortune on all those stamps. Mind you then she could get hooked on Facebook and Twitter. Honestly where will it all end? In the words of the immortal bard: ‘2 thine own self b true!’
Mike Geraghty 24 Upper Newcastle, Galway.