Monday, March 9, 2009

A Rant About Laziness Destroying the English Language

I took eight years of French class during my grade school years. These French classes were forced upon me and due to my disdain for French class during those eight years I can only remember a few spare words and phrases. The one nice thing though is that while I never learned to really speak the language I did learn to sound French, meaning that I am able to speak a convincing French gibberish.

At some point during those years, I learned about something called the L'Académie Française, which is a French institution devoted to maintaining the purity of the French language.

'Well, that's stupid,' I thought to myself. 'Only the French would care about something as stupid as language purity. Idiots.'

(Young me, for whatever reason, was not a big fan of the French.)

The Academie was tasked with trying to prevent the usage of English words (such as 'hamburger') and other foreign born words in everyday French life.

English is sort of a bastard's language. I think this comes from the fact that modern English has stolen or incorporated so many words from other languages that there isn't really a single clear ancestor. This is due to the fact that so many different people controlled England at one point or another. The language has Germanic roots from the Angles and Saxons; it has Latin roots from when the Romans controlled England; it has Nordic roots from when the Viking's ransacked the island; and finally it has French roots from when William the Conqueror took over.

And then American English is the bastard's bastard language because we've stolen words and phrases from the immigrants of various countries as they moved here.

So basically the language I'm using right now is already a mixture of all sorts of different languages and influences.

So who cares, right?

Except this morning I was sitting on the bus heading in to work (so, already cranky) when I overheard someone say the following:

"Sarah, bee-tee-dub, was em-eye-ay the entire night."

Bee-tee-dub? What the hell is "Bee-tee-dub?!"

I turned that over and over in my mind, until I hit upon this possible explanation: the speaker in question had just said out loud the abbreviation "BTW" which, in text abbreviation land, stands for By The Way.

This person had opted to say aloud the abbreviation of a word that actually has the exact same number of syllables as the abbreviation. It takes no more time to just say "by the way" than it does to say "bee-tee-dub."

And suddenly outrage welled up inside the English degree holder in me. My language was under attack! Not by a foreign language - I can deal with that given the slutty history of the language - but by laziness and technology!

Here's a list of abbreviations used in texting. These abbreviations are meant to save you time while you're trying to type out a text message using a number pad. If you scroll through the list, you'll see that the vast majority of these are not used in everyday conversation. However, I'm slowly starting to see some of these creep in. How many of you have heard "Oh-em-gee" in place of "oh my God," or "tee-tee-why-ell" instead of "talk to you later" or "good bye?"

"This is ridiculous," I thought to myself while sitting there surrounded by bus full of people, "What kind of world do we live in when people can't just say the phrase 'what the fuck' they have to use the abbreviation? It's that damned technology and those stupid iPhone thingamawhosits and goddamn kids these days don't respect a damn thing, this whole country is going to hell in a hand basket cornflabbit, what's this foam coming out of my mouth? Ah! Ah!" and then I blacked out and when I woke up I was an eighty-year-old man.

And on my walk from the bus stop to work I thought to myself, "Is it possible that the French were on to something?"

I know. Terrifying thought.

So, faithful readers, I urge you as fellow English speakers (I assume if you've made it this far you're an English speaker) to shun and mock those who would speak aloud those abbreviations meant only for texting. We must say "no more" to the "el-oh-ellers" out there and the "el-em-ay-ohs." It is the only way, short of starting an Académie Anglais, to beat back the tide of laziness in our beloved bastard tongue.

Okay, ttyl.


Brian Barker said...

I see that President Obama wants everyone to learn another language, however which one should it be?

The British learn French, the Australians study Japanese, and the Americans prefer Spanish. Yet this leaves Russian, Mandarin Chinese and Arabic, out of the equation.

It is time to move forward and discuss the subject of a common international language, taught worldwide, in all schools and in all nations.

An interesting video can be seen at A glimpse of the language can be seen at

Nat Topping said...


Did someone... just plug Esperanto on the site?