In So Many Words

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Even before I owned a computer and had started surfing the net I had run into internet speak. At first I had no idea what “addy” and “prolly” meant, then when I began using the net and seeing them spelt out I understood. I didn’t like it when I first heard it and it has not improved with age. At best it sounds like a feeble attempt to make oneself sound significant through usage of jargon familiar only to those in know; at worst it sounds like simple laziness.

So what’s the big deal. Why get so uptight about something as insignificant as that? Don’t I have anything better to do then be some sort of elitist asshole coming across like everyone’s worst nightmare of a grade school teacher? What real difference is using “prolly” instead of probably going to make in the world?

To be honest probably not much. On an individual basis its more pathetic then harmful. I can’t help feeling sorry for those who believe they are obtaining some sort of status by using this shorthand. If it gives them some shred of self-importance, no matter how misguided, then it’s not even that bad. The problem is a little more serious when it comes to the issue of laziness.

Language is the basis for thought. Without language we would not be able to form or articulate complex thoughts. Words are the basis of language. The way in which we utilize words, string them together etc. form the basis for our means of communicating. The more articulate we are the easier it is for us to express ourselves.

It only follows then that the simplification of language would result in the simplifying of thought. Continuous use of short forms and catch phrases result in the eventual loss of the ability to absorb or create complexities. Once this nadir is achieved responses becomes limited to reacting to blunt stimuli. No longer capable of, or willing to, understand we turn to simple solutions. Answers that call for the least amount of effort on our part.

That’s where the problem starts. It’s hard enough as it is to communicate thoughts and emotions. We have natural inhibitions and insecurities that get in the way, without diminishing our potential for talking to each other in this manner.

People bemoan the fact that relationships don’t seem to last nearly as long as they once did. If you talk to people who have been together for any length of time a common thread appears, almost all of them say that talking to each other is what keeps them together. If we have lost the ability to adequately express ourselves how in hell are we going to be able to talk to our partner. No wonder most marriages end after a short time. I bet most couples have never even had a decent conversation about anything more important then their clothes and what car they drive.

If thinking becomes a matter of always looking for the easy way, that’s going to effect people’s approach to life. Striving to achieve a goal has been replaced by the desire for instant gratification. Instead of an appreciation for process the result has become all that matters, who cares the cost. That selfishness and callousness accompanies this should come as no surprise. Our society is degenerating into a culture of single minded pursuit of individual material success with compassion and consideration falling by the wayside.

Ultimately though the worst fallout is what I refer to as the creation of the herd mentality. Manipulation is never easier when people surrender their ability to think. Whether ad agencies, politicians, or religious leaders there are always those willing to take advantage of this.

Pulling simple emotional triggers like patriotism and family values only works when people don’t question the logic behind such stratagems. It’s far easier to listen to someone say this is good and that is bad, then to the person who says well it’s neither and let me explain…. People don’t want to have to make up their own minds. Say a nice catch phrase that they can latch onto and their hooked; wrap it up into an emotional response and their doubly yours.

Many of you may find this far fetched, but I’m not claiming that this is a conspiracy by any government to turn populations into sheep. But I do believe that the leaders of the world’s powers are taking advantage of the circumstances in a big way. Why else would the Republicans constantly make disparaging comments about intellectuals, suggesting that there’s something wrong with thinking.

Politicians everywhere have learned to speak in catch phrases that mean nothing of substance, and by the time anyone figures it out the world’s moved on to the next day and its forgotten. Maybe I’m just a crank, and there’s nothing wrong with people saying addy instead of address, I don’t know.

But I look around every day and see more and more people acting like they don’t think, or don’t care. I hear the leader of the biggest military machine in the world unable to complete a sentence. I’m bombarded with advertising and so called entertainment that’s aimed at eight year olds, and it does make me wonder.

I don’t think it’s the cause of all problems or the root of all evil, that would be simplistic, but it sure is a symptom of a very ill society. Try this as an exercise, the next time you write anything on the internet use complete sentences and words, see how it feels, it really isn’t that hard who knows you might even enjoy it.

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About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site He has been writing for since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.
  • Aaman

    Yr prolly right, AFAIK, OTH, IMHO, I cld be wrng. LLT. IDNK, really.

    “The fault, Dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves, that we are underlings”

  • Sunny

    Internet speak is such a pet peeve of mine! I absolutely can not stand it when someone spells “though” t-h-o. I hate IMO, IMHO, and all of the others. And on a related topic, I hate it when one choses to purposely misspell a word. Spelling “cool” k-e-w-l, for example. Why would anyone do that? I also hate using numbers for letters: I’ll talk 2 U L8R. It’s cute when it’s on a license plate, but not when you are actually trying to communicate!

  • Yr not 1337

  • Thanks for some interesting observations, gypsyman, regarding the relationship between the use of language and capacity for rational thought. The Internet is an interesting medium in that it is both a form of traditional formal written communication and also a hybrid of writing and informal oral communication. Some of your criticism of its use of language finds its basis in the latter usage. But how different is that from conventional speaking practices? We often use linguistic shortcuts as a part of conversation; this alone does not impair one’s ability to use the language properly or expertly in its written form. The danger, however, is that we are increasingly abandoning formal written communication — we read very little and we write even less — in favor of media that are predominantly oral. It is here that the danger lies in terms of our ability to use language effectively for increasing understanding among people. Your prescription, particularly if implemented by the blogger audience, has merit in forstering better communication practices.

  • I believe the use of contractions would be a sign of laziness too. It is also a simplification of the English language. Your argument might be stronger if you do what you preach on all levels.

    I am not a grammar/spelling Nazi though (only on some occasions with certain pet peeves). Just wanted to point out a flaw.

  • Just to point out what you said yourself…. The way in which we utilise words, string them together, gives us the basis for communicating. Just like the fact that its not how many neurones you have in your brain, its how you connect them that makes path of thought, and its not the chords you use, its how you connect them that make the music….. The words we use can be modified, bastardised, shortened, elongated…. THey’re still the same words with the same intent. the radical change in thought occurs when we change the way we form our sentences (And, more obviously, change what we say). ‘What a lovely day’ can be ‘wat a lovly day’ and still carry the same message. ‘today the temperature is 23 degrees centigrade with minimal north-easterly wind and scattered cloud formations’ however has a slightly more clinical ring to it, even if you said ‘tday th temp. is 23* with min. NE wind n scattered cloud formations’