March 03, 2003
A gr8 story on Samizdata about text messaging versus regular English

There a fascinating posting by Gabriel Syme over at, about the culture clash between text messaging and regular reading and writing as demanded by schools, in this case Scottish schools. Gabriel got up earlier this morning than I did, and even then I might have missed it, because few national education stories are as gr8 as this one, "gr8" being the only word I know in this new language so far. There are links to stories (e.g. to this) today, and to pieces I have written on Samizdata way back, and to here, and the least I can do is do is connect the half dozen folk in the unverse to this delightful ruckus who read this but not Samizdata.

Because: need I add how delighted I am about this story? And it's not just that I'm a Vodafone shareholder, god help me. The essence of good writing is knowing who you are sending your message to, and what you are trying to get across with it. By this standard the average text message is excellent, and the average school essay is a pointless shambles of undirected waffle.

I certainly don't think that regular English spelling is a CWOT ("complete waste of time"), but I cannot believe that the education of children is necessarily harmed by this new craze. I suppose anything which might drive a moderately good teacher insane will probably do some harm. But once teachers have got used to this stuff, and once a few text messagers have attained managerial status in the economy, isn't fluency in text messaging something extra to put on one's CV?

Meanwhile, the English language will, as so often, hoover up a mass of new words from this latest patois, and become even more English than it is already ("cwot" perhaps?), that is to say, even more complicated and mysterious and weirdly spelt, even more completely the language of the entire world, and way more cool even than it is already. In short, western civilisation will race ahead, accompanied, as always, by proclamations from oldies to the effect that it is doing the exact opposite.

What's tXt for "discuss"? Although, please note that if you do want to discuss this, the logical place to put comments is on Samizdata rather than here, because that is where most of them will be anyway. My guess is they'll be a lot of fun. I wonder if any regular old-school school teachers will try to stem the tide of gleeful postings in the new lingo with serious explanations of why it all ought to be stamped out, along with all other forms of modern communication, like TV, computers, pop music, chains of bonfires, etc.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 02:02 PM
Category: Technology