This cryptic note popped onto the screen of my cell phone this week after a strange little ringy dingy. It read:
“? where r we mtg 2mor pm CUL8R BN4″
I was alarmed at first, thinking maybe I had dropped the phone and it was alerting me that something had come unglued.
Yet the phone still seemed to be working, so upon further investigation – which meant I asked my 30-something year old son to translate – he broke the code for“? where r we mtg 2mor pm CUL8R BN4″
It read, “I have a question. Where are we meeting tomorrow afternoon? See you later. Bye for now.” After staring at the screen a while, I finally got it. Anyone under the age of 35 obviously gets it because they made it up!
The text message in question had been sent to the wrong party – me – but it was enough to send chills down my spine. Is this what the written word is coming to?
This is an example of a kind of linguistic shorthand commonly used by some people on cell phones, in instant messages and in emails. James Billington, the librarian of Congress recently expressed concern about what he called “the slow destruction of the basic unit of human thought, the sentence!”
“With these young people set to join the workforce over the next decade, are we headed towards a dystopian office culture in which employees turn in reports and make presentations full of abbreviations and emoticons?,” he added. Good Lord! That sounds ghastly and I don’t even know what “dystopian” means.
Words are compacted so much that they become meaningless gibberish. All grammar, spelling, and punctuation has been thrown out the window in the interest of saving space. Night becomes nite, “before” transforms into b4, and any word that sounds like a letter is shortened into a one character phonics lesson.
And get this. There is no need for genuine emotions any longer. Now we have something called “emoticons” – those little symbols with smiley faces or frowny pouts – to be copied and pasted onto our messages as the situation warrants. We can simply save our breath and let the emoticons handle all the stress.
What really gets on my nerves is the code “LOL” (laughing out loud) or its big boisterous brother, ROTFL (rolling on the floor laughing). Give me a break – I get e-mails crammed with these codes and I’ve yet to be even mildly amused.
The electronic marvels of the last 25 years have made our lives easier, but I’m not sure they’ve made them any richer. I have one friend who signs all her e-mails with XOXO. I figured it was some kind of reference to Santa Claus which was confusing in the middle of summer. Today I learned it means “hugs and kisses.”
See! Proves my point. Why bother to smooch if you can slap XOXO on the bottom of your note. Somehow I don’t think this new system of communication is going to be very healthy.