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Social Media And The English Language By Reuben Abati

Social Media And The English Language By Reuben Abati



I get confused these days reading many of the posts on social media, and text messages sent through cell phones, because of the kind of new English that young people now write. The English language is without doubt quite dynamic. In the last 200 years, it has lent itself to many innovations, as cultural, religious, and situational codes have transformed the language and extended the dictionary, with new words and idioms.

The kind of new English being written by twitter and what’s app users, particularly young people is however so frightening and lamentable, because it is beginning to creep into regular writing. Texting and tweeting is producing a generation of users of English, (it is worse that they are using English as a second language), who cannot write grammatically successful sentences. I was privileged to go through some applications that some young graduates submitted for job openings recently and I was scared.

This new group of English users does not know the difference between a comma and a colon. They have no regard for punctuation. They mix up pronouns, cannibalize verbs and adverbs, ignore punctuation; and violate all rules of lexis and syntax. They seem to rely more on sound rather than formal meaning. My fear is that a generation being brought on twitter, Facebook, instagram and what’s app English is showing a lack of capacity to write meaningful prose, or communicate properly or even think correctly.

To an older generation who had to go through the rigour of being told to write proper English, and getting punished severely for speaking pidgin or vernacular or for making careless mistakes of grammar and punctuation, the kind of meta-English now being written by young people can be utterly confusing. The irony is that it makes sense to the young ones, and they can conduct long conversations in this strange version of the English language. I’d not be surprised if someday a novel gets written in this new English, which seems like a complete bastardization.

You may have come across the meta-English that I am trying to describe. It is English in sound, but in appearance it has been subjected to the punishment of excessive abbreviation, compression and modification. Hence, in place of the word “for”, you are likely to see “4”, and so the word “forget” becomes “4get”, or “4git”, “fortune” is written as “4tune”, “forever” as “4eva”. The word “see” has been pruned down to a single alphabet “C”, same with “you” now rendered as “u”. In effect, you are likely to read such strange things as “cu” or “cya” meaning “see you.”

Some other words have suffered similar fate: “straight” is now written as “Str8”, “first” as “fess”; “will” as “wee” (I can’t figure out why), “house” is now “haus”; “help” has been reduced to “epp”; (“who have you epped?”) instead of the phrase “kind of”, what you get is “kinda”, “money” is simply “moni.”, the computer sign ”@” has effectively replaced the word “at”; “come” is now “cum”, the conjunction “and” is represented with an “n” or the sign &, “that” is now “dat”, “temporary” is likely to be written as “temp”, “are” as “r”, “your” as “ur” “to” as “2”, “take” as “tk.” In place of “thank you”, you are likely to find “tank u”, “with” is now “wit” or “wif”, and “sorry” is commonly written as “sowie”. I have also seen such expressions as “Hawayu?” (“How are you?”), or “Wia r d u?” (“where are the you?”). The you? The me? The us?

By the time these new words get combined in what is supposed to be a sentence, you’d have a hard time looking for the sense beyond the sound. On many occasions, I have had to call the sender of such messages to explain what he or she is trying to communicate in simple English, and if it is on social media, I still often call for help. In recent times, I have encountered such messages as “This kidney gist is giving me heddik. I wee hold ya hand if you need kidney love you till we find a miraku. It kent happun pass dat.” Try and help translate that into correct English. And how about this:
“As fuel don add moni, everybody don park dem moto for haus.” Pidgin English? Well, may be. Or this: “B/c we d p’pl thought #fuelscarcity was temp. with the fuel hike policy, high cost of living is now a perm cond’n in Ng.”

Oftentimes, this special prose arrives amidst a number of other confusing symbols, emoticons, memes, acronyms and abbreviations, looking like a photographic combination of English and hieroglyphics. Some of the more popular abbreviations include Lmao (“laughing my ass off”) lol (“laughing out loud”), lwkmd (“laughter wan kill man die”), stfu (“shut the fuck up”), omg (“Oh my God”), rofl (“Rolling on the floor with laughter”), uwc (“you are welcome”), smh (“shaking my head”) brb (“be right back”), #tbt (“throw-back Thursday”), #WCW (“Woman Crush Wednesday”), and such new words as “bae”, “boo”, “finz”, “famzing”, “Yaaay”. Not to talk of such expressions as “You should mute me now”; “get wifed-up”, “birthday loading”, “you hammer”, “kwakwakwakwa.”

This paring down of language gets really worse when it is further reduced to mere jargon that is understood only by the young people who are adepts at it. You can take a look at your child’s text messages or BB or what’s app and not be able to make any sense out of the jumble of incorrect English, graphics, memes and pure lingo. The danger is that sexually suggestive conversations can be carried out by two young persons, texting each other, and a dinosaur-parent would have no idea.






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