In the lead in to this year’s Mencap School Spellathon, a new survey shows that a generation of children is growing up using ‘txt speak’ in their school essays.
‘Txt speak’ is a remnant of the old days of GSM mobile phones with number pads (and before that in pager messages) when limited character sets to a message meant that words were often shortened. For example, message might become MSG, and tonight would become 2nite.
It has continued on in youth culture and has developed almost as its own language – which is of concern to parents and teachers who are regularly seeing it used in a formal context.
The poll showed that 68% of teachers say essays or pieces of homework with txtspeak, such as GR8 (great) and LOL (laugh out loud).
Three quarters of parents (76%) have had to ask their children to clarify the contents of a text message or email. While ‘C U 2NYT’ may be understandable, one parent surveyed said their child sent them a message stating: ‘Mum can M8 cotch at yard’ (Mum, can my friend sleep over at our house this evening?)
Far from being all negative, it has already drawn the attention of linguistics professors around the world. Professor John McWhorter of Columbia University in the US has proclaimed the evolution of this new language as ‘a linguistic miracle’. In an in interview with AllThingsD, McWhorter said that even TXT speak is evolving into something new. Even LOL doesn’t mean ‘laughing out loud’ anymore.
“Now it’s evolved into something much subtler,” McWhorter told AllThingsD.
“It’s become a marker of accommodation, used to fill gaps in a conversation.”