This archived article was written by: Lisa Anderson
To many people, reading “r u ther” is the same as reading a foreign language. Despite such confusion, this style of writing is slowly taking over modern culture. While using it can be convenient between friends, eventually lines must be drawn so that confused outsiders can also understand. When “chatspeak” bleeds into English reports and history papers, we need to start asking ourselves, just where does convenience end?
America has long been known for its diverse culture. Some towns are so diverse that walking a single block is similar to a world tour. With such diversity, it is no surprise to hear a variety of languages spoken in everyday life. Over the past few years a new language has sprung up, one that isn’t spoken, but is instead typed. This language, which has gradually evolved from regular typing, is known as chatspeak.
Originally chatspeak wasn’t a big problem. Many people use it when text-messaging a friend on their cell phone, or leaving a short message via computer. The modern world can leave one very short on free time, so every opportunity to cut a corner is taken. In the case of cell phones, users can be charged per letter typed, so using this new brand of shorthand can be helpful. Many confine their shorthand typing to casual settings, reverting to proper spelling and grammar for official documents.
These days, it is almost impossible to walk into a room full of people and not see a cell phone. Children under 12 can be seen talking or typing even as an adult beside them does the same. Even at school children text message, spending as much time online as they do in a classroom. After typing so often, it’s natural to streamline a skill, leading to faster typing, and eventually faster shortcuts.
At some point, entire words were dropped until only a letter or two remained. Numbers stopped being spelled, while punctuation and capitals were left behind. All this streamlining eventually turned “Are you there?” into “r u ther”, a code that is easily understood between young chatters, but leave adults out of the loop. Between friends such typing is fine, but now this new coded language is starting to bleed over into more official settings.
As a chatroom moderator, I have heard several tear-filled stories between friends. One teen tells another about how they failed their report. When asked why, they bitterly explain that their teacher banned them from using chatspeak in their homework. After using sentences such as “i dun tink” in their writing, I’m hardly surprised at the teachers reaction. Unfortunately they don’t understand why it is a problem and more than once I’ve heard the comment, “Doesn’t everyone speak that way anymore?”
Some places online have become known as a haven and breeding ground for chatspeak. A famous example are the American Online, or AOL, chatrooms. There a person can expect to become lost in a sea of abbreviations, acronyms, and all-around bad typing. A common example is the standard AOL greeting, a/s/l, which stands for age/sex/location. Similar chatspeak is constantly in use, and can pose a hazard to anyone that doesn’t speak in such a coded language.
Chatspeak isn’t just a teen problem. Now and then you can find a manager complaining on how someone turned in a job application written in chat slang. There are also stories of college students turning in essays written in the internet code. Across the country people are slowly forgetting full words even as they drop capital letters and ignore punctuation in their sentences. The question is, where does this new language stop?
It is understandable to talk however we want among our friends. Casual speech has always existed in one form or another, and probably always will. To balance that though, there is always some higher form of speech, something reserved for official or respectful situations. When the line between the two starts to break down, should we start to worry about future generations using proper grammar and spelling?
A person is usually defined by how they speak and typing is no exception. How will we be defined if chatspeak becomes our written language? As students we should take the extra bit of time needed to type correctly. If we can’t write a simple class assignment with all our letters in place, how can we face the job market? While shortcuts are fine for cell phones and laptops, try taking a bit of extra time for official papers. In the long run it will be worth it.