Text Abuse


Elizabeth Creith

I remember writer’s cramp before it became either Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or Repetitive Strain Injury. We didn’t call it “WC”, either, for reasons which are obvious for any British-English speaker. (For those not so blessed, “WC” stands for “water closet”—aka the loo, the john, the crapper, the outhouse, the biffy, the dunniken, the . . . well, I think you get the picture.) In those dear old days we actually said whole words. Weird, eh?

Now it's all “CTS” and “RSI” and I just have to say right here that there are only so many sets of initials in the world, right? If you’re talking about groups of three, you have 26 x 26 x 26 total combinations, including sets like “AAA” and “ZZZ”. That’s 17,576, and I know already that there are way more organizations, rock bands, physical and mental ailments and buzzword groups than that.

I know two for “CSI” alone—“Crime Scene Investigation” and “Customer Satisfaction Index”. Those are pretty far apart in meaning and context! If Ms Smith hires a sloppy hitman to take out her boyfriend, and the police arrest her, the police will have a good CSI, but the hitman’s will be less than stellar, and chances are Ms Smith won’t hire him again. (Actually, chances are Ms Smith will hire someone better to take care of him, but that’s a whole other problem.)

With all that overlap, the chances of being misunderstood—or maybe not understood at all—increase with every set of initials. I once had to hire a hosting firm for my website, and the first guy I called used so many initials in his spiel that I thought maybe his mom had been frightened by a box of Alpha-Bits while she was pregnant. (He F’d U his chances with me BAR. My business went to the guy who spoke actual words.)

I can see the use of initials. Although I don’t text, and usually write emails out in real, if antiquated, English, I can understand when someone has laughed off part of his anatomy, or will C me L8R. There’s a fun kind of rebus-like quality to texting. Remember rebuses? Or those funny sentences like “F U NE M N X?” “S I F M N X” (“Have you any ham and eggs?” “Yes, I have ham and eggs.” All right, we were in grade three, and this was funny enough to make us ROFLOBO. We were way too young to use the A-word.)

A few years ago, on a word nerd forum I belong to, a young woman began posting in text-speak, which most of us fogies didn’t understand. After we’d asked for clarification of one of her posts (I think it was something like “OMG U R all so 15 min ago!”), she suggested we should learn to “rite in txtspk – its not 2 hard”.

One of the forum members won my undying love by suggesting that standard English wasn’t all that hard either, and that the snip might want to learn it. I can’t remember whether Ms txtspk left, or learned English, or what, but it didn’t matter.

After that post I was all, “OMG! ROFLMFAO!” Oh, yeah.

OMG: Oh My God! (with suitable high-pitched tone)
ROFLOBO: Rolling on the floor, laughing our butts off 
ROFLMFAO: Rolling on the floor, laughing my ass off (the singular version of ROFLOBO)
F'd U BAR: Take a wild guess. This is a family publication.

Elizabeth Creith is a biblioholic and incurable librocubicularist. Not only does she buy, read, shelve and stack books, but she also writes them and on occasion makes them by hand. Elizabeth lives and writes in Wharncliffe, Northern Ontario, distracted occasionally by her husband, dog, and cat. The Scriptorium is where she blogs about writing and life. Contact Elizabeth.



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