OMG. What the flipping heck? I think to myself as I stare at the paper on the desk before me.
I’m proof reading an essay for a friend.
He’s asked me if I could review and return it to him before it’s due.
The piece of processed tree bark appears to be lifeless,
blood. The murder weapon is the pen in my hand – its shining tip
is smeared with red ink. I’m only two paragraphs, two
paragraphs, into the essay and already I’m frustrated beyond belief.
I put the pen and essay to the side, careful not
to get any more red
ink on my hand. Wiping my hands off on my jeans, I reach for
my cell phone. Pulling up my contact list, I find
his name next to the
small avatar and place the call.
After a few seconds, he answers. His voice is cheerful, and I’m greeted
with the usual “Eh brah! Whassap!” followed by, “So you wen
finish my papah?”
“Yeah, brah. I went finish your paper.” I
reply – mocking him in my forced
Now, before I go on, the author of the now scratched up essay is a dear, dear friend
of mine. I love him like a brother and have been friends with him for years. I’ve always loved everything about him, everything except
his writing – and his speech, but that’s another story.
But back to our conversation.
“Are you seriously thinking
of turning this in?” I ask, “You know Sarah Palin is just going to give you an F.” I say.
The Sarah Palin I speak of isn’t
the actual Sarah Palin – she’s our
English teacher. It’s because her appearance – and intelligence,
or lack thereof – that I christened
her Sarah Palin. Think Tina Fey on
Saturday Night Live.
brah. I gotta turn in some-ting or else she goin’ fail me.” He
“Bro. Even if you do
turn this in she’s going to fail you.” I reply.
“Das one chance I gotta take.” He
I roll my eyes. We’re on the phone. He can’t see me.
“Fine.” I reply, “I’ll give it back to you
“Shoots den brah.” He replies.
up the essay and look at it, looking first at all of my red
then the text buried beneath them. I sigh. What’s more unfortunate
than his writing skill is that writing like the piece
I hold in my
hands isn’t uncommon. Given, not every teenager writes that way,
but of the papers I’ve read, an easy eighty percent
are filled to the
brim with spelling and grammatical errors, poor word choice.
I’ve read papers in which the author will use
and abbreviate words the same
way they would in a Facebook status update. I read “lol” and “omg” in
Obviously these aren’t the most informed writers
in the world, but one would think it would be common sense to convey
of mirth and shock in a more intelligent manner.
What if the reader of the piece isn’t familiar with the
What if said reader
isn’t just a teacher (who might not have even read it at all)? What if
the paper is an essay attached to a college
if it’s actually important?
To truly understand when all of this ridiculous and
originated, we have to look back about five to ten years, the time
during which the now ubiquitous short message service rose in popularity
above email and calling as a means of communication.
Short message service. No one even calls
it that anymore. People just
say “text”. And believe me, I scoured
every dictionary I could find, both printed and digital. “Text”
is not a verb.
in the last five to ten years, “short message
service” was shortened
to “ SMS text messaging” which was then shortened to just “text
messaging” which was further shortened to “texting”. In fact, in
advertising, some companies, albeit only in advertisements
commercial marketing, are even shortening “texting” to “txting”.
messaging first became popular in the days of the phones
old enough to
be on display in the Smithsonian. We all remember those ancient
candy bar phones. They had those twelve tiny buttons
on the front
below a monochrome, low-resolution screen. We composed messages
using twelve little buttons, each button standing in
for three or four
But then, a few
years later, with the rise BlackBerrys, iPhones, and the ever
of the world, full keyboards became more and more
prevalent on cell phones. They became so popular on smartphones that,
that debut on high-end cars, they began to trickle
down into even the most basic cellular units. The thing we commonly
refer to as
the QWERTY keyboard is now on almost every phone.
The game has changed. Phones without QWERTY boards are now the
composes messages on mobile devices using a full,
twenty-six-letter keyboard. No one needs to labor over a miniscule
array, punching at the same button over and over
again just to get one letter!
We’ve come so far, in fact, that now some
phones will listen to
you and, through a series of complex algorithms, digitize voice into
text! Want to Google something? Speak
your query, my friend!
Want to cheat in Spanish class and do a quick translation? Hablar con tu consulta, mi amigo!
got all this amazing technology – full keyboards on mobile
phones, word suggestion, spell checking, voice to text rendering
there on our phones! So why the flying fish are we still
composing text messages and emails like we’re using those ancient
I’ll admit that when I’m having a casual conversation with my
friend I don’t pay close
attention to my spelling,
grammar, and all that formal stuff. That's
the time for writing the way I speak , but when I’m composing
a text message or an email
to someone who is outside of my informal
circle, I take those little red underscores very seriously. I
put apostrophes where they
belong. If there is something wrong with
what I type, my phone will correct me. And there’s another unfortunate
turn of the tables.
My phone is smarter than I am. Damn.
It pains me to think about the future
of language. Fifty years from now, the longest
novels will be less
than a page long, chapters reduced to paragraphs. Newspapers, if
they still exist, will be printed on index cards.
will be used for exactly what its name suggests. Word. Singular
So I like to exaggerate to make a point
and in the current day and age
it is an exaggeration. But that’s now. What scares the
living daylights out of me is the fact that
I can see this Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451-esque
world in the near future – my future.
Needless to say, my career will burn to ash
like the pages of the
books in Bradbury’s world if the machinations of my mind manifest
themselves in reality.
WTFH is happening
to our society? We’re supposed to be
and growing smarter in our approaches and stronger in our abilities.
supposed to be progressing not regressing. We should be
making Shakespeare seem simple, Jane Austen cute. Unfortunately the
of yesteryear are still making us of this society a million
times more advanced, look like twits. No, my apologies, twits are the
people who twitter (or tweet, whatever it’s called) on Twitter.
Two hundred years from now, our children and great grand children
be communicating just as the cavemen did. Guttural grunts and
simple line drawings will replace speech and the written word.
Or perhaps I should just get with
the times and stop trying so hard. Perhaps shortening our words down
to single letters
is humanity’s way of becoming more efficient.
Perhaps it’s smart to lessen the amount we have to read and write.
Perhaps it’s smart
to be stupid.
On my own writing:
isn’t perfect. I know that. I have a lot to learn and if this piece
off as a tad pretentious, I apologize. I owe a lot to
the dedicated editors who run through my papers each week. They
of the credit. As I ramble on they trail behind me and
clean it up as I go. Thank you also to all the readers who have
to the Spectator.