Are Tweens Driving Another LOL Stake into the Coffin of the English Language?

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July 27, 2012 at 10:25 am  •  Posted in Writing by  •  1 Comment

Teenager texting on an iPhoneTweens are killing the English language with poor grammar skills learned while texting, according to a new study. Is this the end? Hardly.

If a boatload of tweens were shipwrecked on a desert island with nothing but their cell phones, not only would they end up worshipping a pig on a stick, but in a hundred years, their text messaging language would be largely incomprehensible to the outside world.

Of course, ask any crotchety adult with an antiquated cell phone, and the day of unintelligibility has already arrived. “Kids these days! They’re ruining the English language with the clickety-clack of their finger talking, or texting, whatever it’s called!”

Give this technophobic adult a university degree and some unrestricted grant funds, and they’ll likely come up with a study showing that tweens are killing the English language with the bad grammar that they’ve picked up while texting.

This study, by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, has succeeded where others have failed.  Middle school students—the tween set—did more poorly on grammar tests if they

  • texted more often, or
  • used text messaging adaptations—techspeak—like LOL for laugh out loud, and OMG for Oh My God! [spelled out for those of you who are still partying like it’s 1999].

Is this the end of the English language as we know it? Are adults of today doomed to spend their time in a retirement home surrounded by nurses and doctors who speak in the language of the Lord of the ROFLies?

I’d hardly say the end is here, so unbunch your knickers and set down your grammatical indignation.

The study of the tweens was pretty limited, with less than half of the (meager 542) students actually completing the survey. Even worse, they made the students fill the surveys out on paper. They probably would have done much better if students were allowed to text their answers to the researchers.

A better approach would be a Lord of the Flies research project—also known as a randomized clinical trial.

  • Take a set of non-texting pre-tweens (aka mini-tweens or bitty-tweens).
  • Strand them on two islands (half on each, randomly selected of course) with Oxford educated grammarians and lexiophiles to teach them the whys and what-fors of the English language.
  • Give the bitty-tweens on one island cell phones, and the ones on the other island walkie-talkies.
  • Wait a few years and see which ones have better grammar (and which ones end up worshipping a Nokia on a stick).

Who knows, one of these grammatically indecipherable tweens might grow up to become the next E. E. Cummings, the famous poet who pioneered non-standard grammar long before cell phones were invented.

SNOW by E. E. Cummings
cru
is
ingw Hi
sperf
ul
lydesc

BYS FLUTTERFULLY IF

(endbegi ndesignb ecend)tang
lesp
ang
le
s
ofC omego

CRINGE WITHS

lilt(
-ing-
lyful
of)!
(s
r

BIRDS BECAUSE AGAINS

emarkable
s)h?
y&a
(from n
o(into whe)re f
ind)
nd
ArE

GLIB SCARCELYEST AMONGS FLOWERING


Photo:  Some rights reserved by Br3nda

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