SUNDAY, 4/15/12, Issue 32
Texting while writing: This, my thirty-sixth epistle to you, will be the last in which I will use complete words, sentences, and thoughts. From now on, you will receive texts. I am going to engage in the allegedly dangerous practice of texting while writing. Because texting can be traced back to the ancient Israelites, sufficient historical precedent justifies changing my mode of communication.
Many people warn about the dangers of texting. Some confine their admonitions to texting while driving.
However, English teachers caution against all texting, that it is bad nutrition for the mind. Texting while writing, they maintain, is dangerous.
Texting while writing = mental death..
Because language provides the core of thinking, English teachers say, the abbreviating and eliding of letters, words, and sentences destroys the ability to think full thoughts.
Unlike what happens in student writing, punctuation becomes ad hoc.
English teachers exaggerate the danger. They are school-marmish types who lack a decent sex life. Their complaint assumes, idealistically, that there are full thoughts to communicate in the first place. I can assure you that that hardly ever is the case. Nothing changes with texting. In all of the epistles I have written to you, not one complete thought has ever emerged..
Efforts to reform the English language go back to the seventeenth-century, to John Wilkins and Thomas Spratt. My namesake, Lemuel Gulliver, in the third book of his Travels, describes experiments to simplify language that were carried out at the Academy of Lagado in Laputa. These and other experiments failed. Think of Esperanto.
Esperanto: in 1996, 200-to-1,000 native speakers worldwide.
However, none of these reforms had any hope of success, until now. Texting has made it possible to realize the centuries-old dream. Through texting, people can now stop using verbs, adverbs, adjectives, and articles. They will simply use nouns and conjunctions, as in beer and nachos, or “br+nchos.” And maybe interjections, as in, OMG! Most of the time, however, nouns and conjunctions will be all we need. Sometimes not even that, as in Iced Caramel Macchiato, although you probably would not text that, unless you are texting your order to a barista.
Vowels can go too. The old testament Hebrew didn’t use them. Think of the tetragrammaton, YHWH, for Yahweh, the name agreed upon by scholars in the Christian era when they attempted to restore the vowel sounds of the tetragrammaton. These scholars objected to the abrupt propinquity of upper-case consonants. But if the ancient Hebrews didn’t need vowels to communicate an idea as complicated as God, then we probably have never needed them in the first place.
If no vowels was good enough for Abraham and Moses, it should be good enough for us. Leaving them out certainly makes texting easier. Texting allows us to reestablish the lost language of the Israelites, before the early Roman Catholic redactors mucked everything up by inserting vowels. (Being a good Baptist, I always look for a stick to beat up the Papists.) By the way, or BTW, I also am looking through Paul’s epistles for examples of his writing that resemble texting. I will let you know when I find something.
And now, like any good Bollywood movie, every Letter to the Editor should take a moment and burst into song. Even if the musical number has absolutely nothing to do with whatever surrounds it.
Now, back to business. So you see why I am going to text my next epistle to you, Mr. Editor. Have you noticed that I have started to use the word epistle? I like the word because (1) it makes me feel like the apostle Paul, and (2) it intimates that the missive is going to convey my profound, though most likely incomplete, thought. Next time, one-hundred and forty characters should be enough for me to get to the bottom of whatever is in my mind. I don’t anticipate any danger to my intellectual well being. And I can’t wait to see what the message will look like!
U cnt ethr, cn u?