Foul Language

I’d hate to bite the hand that will potentially feed me, but I have no choice.

As we advance in the methods of communication, we lose quality in what is said. I’m sure the more lucid of us knows what I mean, however all those “l33t” folk may be a tad lost. So, let me begin with a little history.

For years, letter writing was the only way of communicating over long distances. And during that time, the written word flourished. As Civil War documentaries show, even the most backwards farm boy wrote with such style that it puts current Rhodes scholars to shame. Then came the telephone, and letter writing became almost obsolete.

As calling rates went up, so did the need for brevity. Not wit… just brevity. The spoken word suffered. And as interesting the forms of slang that developed may be, it’s gets annoying when it seeps into the vernacular without realizing it, ya dig dude? I guess it’s the evolution of language so it’s excusable to a point. However, enter the next advance in communication: the Internet and all it’s products.

Email, IM and chat rooms have become safe havens for the most abominable acts of English butchery. ALL CAPS, abbreviated thoughts and constant misspellings are all too commonplace. And what’s the deal with using numbers and punctuation marks as letters? Haven’t we gotten passed the point of seeing how many words we can spell with a pocket calculator?

I may misspell a lot, but it’s due to the fact I can’t type. Not being able to type quickly and the desire to punctuate and spell properly do not a happy combo make. And there you go. I admit to have fallen prey to Internet Illiteracy.

But it goes further. In letter writing, you would write to those you would probably never see again; telephone – once in a blue moon; IM – well, people instant message people in the same damn house, or room even!

An article in the January 3rd NY Times says that instant messaging has the ability to bring family members, living under a common roof, together through virtual communication.

And now, as families own more than one computer, the machines spread beyond the den and home networks relying on wireless connections become increasingly popular, instant messaging is taking root within the home itself.

Although it might seem lazy or silly to send electronic messages instead of getting out of a chair and walking into the next room, some psychologists say the role of the technology within families can be positive. In many cases, they say, the messages are helping to break down the interpersonal barriers that often prevent open communication. (John Schwartz – Read it on

The article makes some points in its favor (like most articles do), but I still don’t buy it. Personal experience has shown me the badness of purely typed language.

Before 1998, I never had access to the Internet. And although I was shy and removed, I could still hold a conversation. Then I found IM and began using it more and more, admittedly even to people even in the next chair in the computer lounge. I’ve noticed now that I drift off in mid thought; I can’t look people in the eye anymore (not that I’d want too); I’ve grown distant in real life. It scares me.

Now, I’ve never actually verbalized “L-O-L,” but I have heard people use it in actual speech. It sent a shiver down my spine.

Are we that close to falling into another communication chasm? First it was the written word, then the bastardization of the spoken word. What next? A passing how-do-you-do without looking up from a mobile keypad and headset?

Maybe that’s why science is so eager to finish computer chip implants?

Think about it… Think about it out loud.

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Written by

Ryan Livingston

Ryan Livingston