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Learning to Speak Teen
Where will text-messaging lead? Instead of developing keyboarding skills, teens have devolved a language of their own. CD IT B R FUCHR?

I live in Hormone Central. Both my daughters are moody, and the slightest little thing can set them off. Come to think of it, the slightest little thing sets me off, too, but before they got all hormonal they could always get me to snap me out of it. Now they wallow down there with me. Things are looking grim for my husband over the next few years!

But hormones are not the only new thing at our house. As my daughters have ventured online a bit (in a very safe manner!), and have begun to exchange emails and participate in chats (with only approved friends), I have been amazed at the strange new language being spoken by the younger members of our species. It does not appear to observe common spelling patterns, and definitely eschews punctuation.

Shakespeare once had Hamlet utter those immortal words which echo the reflection of many of our yearning hearts: “To be or not to be, that is the question.” Today’s teens, though, if faced with that same conundrum, would be more likely to express it thus: “2 B OR NOT 2 B TAHT SI TEH QU3STION !!!!!!1 LOL”. Sort of loses something in translation, does it not?

While most schools ban cell phone usage during class, I have been assured by many of my daughters’ generation that the ability to text during a lesson is considered a highly prized skill. And so our offspring, while being taught such things as John F. Kennedy’s rousing speech, “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” at that very moment may type it like this: “ASK NOT WUT UR COUNTRY CAN DO FOR U ASK WUT U CAN DO FOR UR COUNTRY!1!!11!1! LOL.”

I thought that computers and email were going to turn us into a society where keyboarding skills are paramount, but it seems that many youth are avoiding actually conquering the keyboard, choosing instead to use the minimum number of keys possible to get a point across. I can’t help wondering if, in the process, a new language is being created.

Think of all the acronyms we now see online or on our phones. Some are more easily recognizable: LOL (laugh out loud), or “ROFL” (roll on the floor laughing). LOL means it made you smile. ROFL means you may have snorted. ROFLCOPTER is “rolling on the floor and spinning around”. That’s when you may actually have chuckled. Hyperbole, it seems, is essential in internet circles.

Then there are other acronyms, like BFF, meaning best friend forever, (or at least until those hormones hit again), or ilu, meaning I love you. So many new ones pop up all the time you may need a guide, and never fear, many “parents’ guides to teen chat acronyms” are available online, so you can tell what it is your teens are actually saying when they write something like: “SCNR SOMY POS”. (Sorry, could not resist. Sick of me yet? Watch what you’re saying; parent over my shoulder.”)

Such things have already entered into the vernacular. Perhaps in forty years they will be the established form of English grammar. After all, Shakespeare would be appalled at how we speak today; is it any surprise that we would similarly be appalled at how our own language is devolving? Let’s look at how a future budget might be reported in a newspaper, using this burgeoning internet English:

PM & FM read the budget 2day. ROTFL! ^$ 4 army, 0$$ for schools. ): Opp Leader said we need $$ for seniors not tx cuts. PM said Opp guy = loser but if he votes 4 budget they can B BFF! Opp Leader said not in my lifetime LOL. Will budget pass? Who nos?

Looks pretty ridiculous, doesn't it? On the other hand, given the antics of many in government, perhaps that's the intellectual level we really are operating at. LOL.

Sheila Wray Gregoire is the author of How Big is Your Umbrella: Weathering the Storms of Life. You can sign up for her free e-zine at

To Love, Honor, and Vacuum: When You Feel More Like a Maid Than a Wife and Mother
A must read for any woman who finds herself too busy, too tired and too frustrated to enjoy and cherish the most important blessings in her life mainly her husband, her children and her Lord.

How Big Is Your Umbrella?
In this down-to-earth, practical book, author Sheila Wray Gregoire takes readers on a journey through many of her own hurts. From a broken engagement to the loss of a child, Sheila is well equipped to teach others about God's faithfulness in tough times.

Originally published on Proud to be Canadian, January 26, 2009.




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