The standard SMS is 25 years outdated at the moment. Regardless that it’s nonetheless completely related, its recognition has ebbed as a consequence of messaging apps like WhatsApp, Viber, and Fb Messenger.
It’s value reflecting on how essentially transformative SMS was on language. Though texting wasn’t essentially the origin of acronyms like LOL, G2G, and WTF, which have been borne from providers and applied sciences as numerous as USENET and TELEX, it definitely popularized them, thrusting them into our on a regular basis lexicon.
And as is the case with language, these acronyms have themselves shifted in that means, and turn out to be broader. As a substitute of writing lengthy phrases and sentences, individuals as an alternative relied upon a cryptic dictionary of abbreviations and acronyms.
For instance, at one level, LOL was used virtually completely a signifier of amusement. Now, it’s much more nuanced. As John McWhorter writing in Time defined:
Texting is creating its personal form of grammar. Take LOL. It doesn’t truly imply “laughing out loud” in a literal sense anymore. LOL has advanced into one thing a lot subtler and complex and is used even when nothing is remotely amusing. Jocelyn texts “The place have you ever been?” and Annabelle texts again “LOL on the library learning for 2 hours.” LOL alerts primary empathy between texters, easing stress and creating a way of equality. As a substitute of getting a literal that means, it does one thing — conveying an angle — similar to the -ed ending conveys previous tense somewhat than “that means” something. LOL, of all issues, is grammar.
And I’m being totally figurative after I say ‘dictionary.’ Amazon is full of softback-books that promised mother and father to assist decipher the texts despatched by their youngsters — all relics from a bygone period. The blurb for A Glossary of Netspeak and Textspeak, printed in 2004, asks:
Have you ever been flamed lately? Or pinged? Or felt 404? Are you aware the distinction between a MUD and a MOO? Or between a WAP and a WISP? Are you able to translate Eight-o ? Or cu4T?
Texting additionally popularized the observe of changing complete phrases with single characters: so ‘are’ turned ‘r,’ and ‘why’ turned ‘y.’ That is nonetheless fairly widespread to see, though much less so, as predictive texting algorithms have improved and keyboards (each digital and bodily) are so good, you don’t even have to make use of this shorthand anymore.
So, why was texting so transformative to language? An enormous a part of it’s value.
Free texting remains to be very a lot a novelty. Again within the 1990s and 2000’s, it was deeply costly, particularly should you have been on a pay as you go plan. I personally keep in mind paying as a lot as 10p for a single textual content to somebody on a unique cellphone community to myself. As a result of texts have been 160 characters in size, you have been compelled to be frugal along with your language.
I think about within the 1980’s, somebody writing in txtspk would look like barely literate. Within the 1990’s: a frugal penny-pincher with no want to rack up an enormous cellphone invoice.
In 2017? Yeah, barely literate once more.
The truth that T9 telephones have been bloody exhausting to sort on didn’t actually assist the matter. Writing a easy textual content on, say, a Nokia 3310 typically required lots of of keypresses. Having the ability to faucet out a message rapidly wasn’t a given, however a talent individuals practiced and developed.
There was even a texting olympics. In 2003, a 14-year outdated boy received by writing the phrase “I’ve bought all the abilities to be the first Telephones 4U cellular Olympic champion this weekend” in only one minute and 21 seconds.
Given we now not measure messages in such austere phrases, and the T9 keyboard is just about useless, SMS’ affect on our language has just about run its course. But it surely’ll be fascinating to see what, if any, vernacular will penetrate the English language from different providers, like WhatsApp, Snapchat, and Fb.