Sunday morning Nat and I are laying around the house, she finishing off the last Harry Potter book and I’m reorganizing my PC and she gets a text message from her youngest sister, Brittany.
OH EM GE!
The rest of the text and the conversation that follows is none of your concern so we’ll leave them to their privacy. What I would like to point out is the “OH EM GE.”
I hate text messaging. I’ll do it if I have to tell several people the same thing (“Change of plan. Be at my house at 6:00p”) or leaving a message for someone who I know can’t answer their telephones (you’re driving, in a meeting, etc and I shoot you a “we’re playing Xbox at 8:30p if you want in.”) But to hold a conversation via text? Hate that shit. Just call me. It’s why I have a telephone. Having a telephone and using it to text is like having a television and using it as the flat surface to read your newspaper.
The popularity of texting has lead to textspeak (or at least that’s what I call it, I am sure some dude at Newsweek has already named it something better). This is the shortening of words to save time (because of the conversational nature of texting) and that originally cell phones didn’t have keypads. No problem. We do that in English all the time: @ is “at” or % is “percent.” The Federal Bureau of Investigation becomes the FBI, you’re with me here.
This brings me back to Brittany and her text: OH EM GE!
She’s spelled out an acronym. OH EM GE is the phonetic spelling of Oh My God which has been textspeaked to OMG. And she spelled it out. Keep in mind, OMG was originally designed to not have to spell out “Oh My God” but there she is spelling out the acronym and saving herself one character (from nine to eight) in the process from actually using the King’s English. It’s kind of like abbreviating Ohio as OH… it’s two letters, does it really save anyone real time. I always pictured dudes sitting in a room fighting over the abbreviations for Mississippi, Michigan and Missouri and then they get to Ohio and a dude looks at the others and says, “is this really necessary? It’s just two letters shorter.” Then some other dude, I like to call him Dirk, says, “yeah, but if everyone else gets it and they don’t, they’re only gonna bitch… have you ever been to Wooster? Those fuckers are crazy.”
My apologies to anyone from Ohio or Wooster. I have never been to Wooster. I just like saying it. And I guess for Ohioans two letters is still 50% less writing so good for you.
I picture an entire generation spelling out DEE EM VEE and EYE ARE ES. My personal favorite would be the EN DOUBLE AY SEE PEE and suddenly we’re a nation of Nell Kelty‘s spouting out gibberish while we yell at shoddy English skills of newcomers (which I am using instead of foreigners since when they get here they are no longer foreign… use it so it catches on).
Understand, I fancy myself a writer. Language means something to me and my head throbs a little when I see “through” spelled as “thru” or “doughnuts” spelled as “donuts.” My OCD kicks in when I see the abbreviations for days all three letters and someone decides Thursday should be “Thur.” The kicker is always words misspelled to be cute. Kash N Karry or Google. Never mind having to watch rappers punctuate their sentences with an infinite amounts of “umm, you what I’m sayin'”s and misspellings of “Boyz,” “Thugz” and my personal favorite: “Niggaz.” Take a word that literally means lazy and ignorant and misspell it. Good job there, Tupac.
Oh shit! I just Googled “Niggaz” and it came back with 6.7 million hits. I Googled “Niggers” and it came back with 2.7 million.
I lived with a girl named Heather years ago who when instant messaging would spell “cool” as “kewl.” Didn’t save her any characters. Didn’t save her any time. It just made her look illiterate. A friend recently told me a story about a young woman who applied for a job at his office, interviewed and presented herself well. He concluded with the standard, “we’ll be in touch” and as he looked at the very professional resume to verify the contact information he noticed the email address, firstname.lastname@example.org. And this is exactly my point. I am sure she thought that email was cute when she was sixteen but here she is as an adult talking to adults, not her dumb little friends, and didn’t see the problem here. The other day my seventeen year old cousin text messaged me and signed the text “+0ny NgUy3n.” That’s Tony Nguyen for those in the cheap seats. Again, using the same amount of characters and saving no time unlike when I abbreviate my own name as J Fo (which would have been really cool for Jennifer Lopez until that restraining order kicked in… I guess a love letter and a pillow filled with human hair doesn’t go as far as it used to).
In Brittany Maxwell’s defense, I believe she’s twenty (out of high school, not old enough to drink) which places her in that bracket somewhere behind my Generation X (a term I despise only slightly less than our society’s need to label everything and the redundant labels (Generation X, Y and Brittany who should be Generation A or B by now)). If I am doing my math correctly (and I suck at math to the point I can’t count to twenty-one without being naked), Brittany is born somewhere in the late eighties. It would have been around 1995 when she achieved self-awareness making her part of a generation raised on DVD, cell phones, high-speed internet and Sony Playstations. She’s probably never used a TV with knob (or one that only worked in black & white) or spent more than five minutes in an arcade (where I spent most of my college money playing Tetris and in my defense, I would make one hell of a Grocery Bagger). The era of home video games that came in eight colors and a joystick with one button that either fired or jumped but it didn’t do both so you better figure it out before that purple square that was supposed to be a dragon kills you. You didn’t beat those games. They just got faster and faster, harder and harder and eventually you died with a little less money than you had earlier… much like life.
To her, Eddie Murphy has always been in a fat suit, phones always had answering machines and MySpace is where I should be allowed to post my personal business knowing full and well the rest of the planet can see it.
This is what they tell me is a generational gap. I am learning to deal.
C U L8tr.