by Beau Hebert
Dear The Beauster,
My daughter is getting close to taking her SAT test to get into college. I’m really worried about her language skills, especially her English writing ability, because it’s mostly emoticons, emojis, strange abbreviations and slang. It might as well be a foreign language altogether and I’m worried about how this might affect her prospects for college. Any suggestions?
Burien Mom, sick of emoticons, not LMAODear Burien M, S of E-cons, not LMAO,
This is an interesting question, and I’m not sure I have a very good answer to it. A bi-product of texting and social media communication has been the onslaught of emoticons, emojis, GIFs, strange acronyms and new-fangled abbreviations, which, to younger generations, interlock into a second language wherein the speech-producing organs are displaced by smartphone thumb-typing. This bilingualism is unfolding and changing at such a break-neck pace that any attempt to codify it in something like a dictionary would be futile. In this regard, it’s a pretty amazing thing to behold, like watching human evolution, from early homunculus to modern cappuccino drinker, on a hyper-speed film reel. But where is this heading?
The impact on written English is massive. Not only has an entire new vocabulary been introduced, but grammar and punctuation have been escorted right out of the club. In this Wild, Wild West of language, will capital letters continue to be relevant? Will the thumbs-up emoji officially replace the word “yes?” Like most things, I expect this sea-change of our language to have pros and cons, and so I’ve broken them down into those categories as I see them:
Pros: 1) We no longer have to strain ourselves with the output of audible laughter – a simple LOL will suffice; 2) Reciting Shakespearean sonnets to declare our love for another is no longer necessary since screaming goat GIFs say that and so much more; 3) John Galt’s barely-intelligible 60-page speech in Atlas Shrugged can now be condensed into a single page of barely-intelligible Acronyms, Instagram pics & emoticons; 4) The epitaph on our gravestone can now be reduced to a single expressive emoji – like a smiling frog in sunglasses – saving those who survive us on stone-chiseling costs.
Cons: 1) The semi-colon, already the red-headed step-child of the punctuation world, will lose its place alongside the comma and the period, existing only in the Purgatory of being the winking eye section of emoticons; 2) We will forevermore register the presence of the letter of F in any acronym as the F-Word, for instance: North American F*** Trade Agreement; 3) We might lose our grasp of English grammar, spelling, syntax, the proper use of their, they’re and there; your, yore and you’re; who, whose, whom and who’s; and to, too and two in our text messages and social media posts…oh wait, I got you’re txt and theirs lot’s of reasons to beleive this has all ready hapenned.
Please note my liberal use of the semicolon above. It deserves one last wild ride before being tossed onto the emoticon scrap heap!
Ultimately, I wouldn’t worry too much about your daughter’s SAT scores and prospects for college. Her entire peer group is equally affected by these rapid changes to our language. This will be reflected in test results across the board, leveling the playing field. Who knows, perhaps fluency in this mongrel teenage tech-slang dialect will lead to far better job prospects than a degree in something ridiculous like Medicine or, God forbid, English literature. Good luck with your daughter and do your best to just LYAO.
Prescription from the back bar pharmacy at Jude’s Old Town: AMF or Adios Mother F*****. Vodka, gin, rum, tequila, blue curaçao, sour mix and 7-up. This drink will turn you into a screaming goat in no time flat.
Overheard at the bar: “I’m curing your bar top with the sweat from my body.”
Beau Hebert is the owner of Jude’s Old Town in Rainier Beach and Lottie’s Lounge in Columbia City.
Featured image by Alex Garland