We all know teens can’t spell. And parents blame technology. And they’re partially right.
In talking with teens, the lack of available namespace is something that regularly comes up. They can’t get the screenname they want on AIM or the URL they want on MySpace. So, they go with alternate spellings. It’s fascinating to talk to them about how they started mucking with the spelling of words to create accounts on this that or the other system. Can we blame the lack of meaningful namespaces for the destruction of English? Perhaps.
Once on these systems, they want to create a unique identity, something that really identifies them, something that has “personality.” Personality… personalization. Why not personalize the English language? Suh-weet. This makes it fun and expressive. (My favorite part of this is that when someone goes to copy/paste an AIM into Xanga, they have to be very careful to change the spelling to that person’s style if they’re going to mod the copy/paste and pretend like that was the real conversation.) So maybe we can blame the fact that teens are stuck at home, bored, and wanting to be expressive?
SMS is, of course, taking this to a whole new level. This is pretty well known outside of the US where SMS-speak has destroyed native tongues everywhere, but we’re only about a year into massive texting adoption amongst teens in the States. Now, they’re trying to be expressive using as few characters as possible. Remember when secretaries used to learn shorthand? Imagine how fast a teen today would be at that. Maybe we should train them to be secretaries and give them phones? Scratch that. But once again, the solution to a technological limitation is to mess with the English language. Hmm.
The English language is not actually that stable. Go check out some Old English texts and you’ll see all sorts of peculiar spelling of familiar words. It took a long time for English to evolve to its current structure. I can’t help but wonder if that evolution just sped up.