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Why Academics Need To Chill Out About 'Text Talk,' Srsly


For a few years now, teachers and English purists have bemoaned the slow, painful death of language. It was bad enough when only rock music and television were the enemy.

Today it's smartphones. In fact, in a recent article a professor bemoans to The Telegraph that social media network Twitter is causing students’ writing skills to “go down the plug hole.”

Many a high school teacher can point to at least a handful of instances where LOL or j/k or OMG have popped up in student essays.

And, to further prove that there is,  in fact, a dark, nefarious force infiltrating our minds and our vocabulary, enemies of “text talk” point to the newest selection of words from Oxford Dictionaries Online (not the Oxford English Dictionary) which include enemies of eloquent language: twerk, selfie and badassery and condensed forms of words and phrases like srsly and FOMO.

Language is dynamic. As society evolves, so does vocabulary.

To the doomsayers I say, calm down.  Remember that the ODO is not the same as the Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford’s online reference is more adaptable, a little faster and a little looser with the words that they include. After all, their mandate is to focus on current English and modern meanings. And I’d add that many of the new words are necessary to address new and growing technology.

Are the words silly?  Yes. Have they infiltrated teens’ lexicon?  Certainly. But, is this new? Have teenagers suddenly discovered slang or colloquial speech?  The answer is certainly not. One need not think too far back to find now obscure words that were once too embarrassing to utter. Remember cowabanga? Or tubular? Or psych?

Yes, journalists and “totally bogus” grown-ups at one time hated those words too. Hashtags, text messages and social media are here now. Soon enough, they too will be old news.

So academics take heart. Language is dynamic. It is alive and changing, evolving and adapting. Most of these new “words,” if we must call them that, will soon fade into obscurity.