At the bedside of Mistress English Language, holding her hand as she wastes away

typed for your pleasure on 7 August 2005, at 3.03 pm

Sdtrk: ‘Little man, what now?’ by Morrissey

So recently I was ‘surfing’ the ‘Internets’, doing some research regarding a Japanese television show that Derek and I viewed a week or so ago, called ‘Densha otoko’ (‘The Train man’). What the show’s about is irrelevant to this post, but you can learn about it here. Needless to say, we got a big kick out of it, so Derek is going to download the rest of the series as the fansubbers release them. At any rate, in scanning various websites, I read an article from a 2004 issue of the Japan Times with a paragraph that really stood out:

[I am from the] analog generation, growing up only with television and land-line phones. In fact, an article in Spa (Sept. 7) informs us of digital gaps even between those in their 20s. Twenty-eight-year-olds are the pocket-paper generation; they tend to write long, letter-style e-mails. Twenty-four-year-olds were raised on cell phones (but during the transition period to broadband Net access), while 20-year-olds have only known fixed-fee, broadband access to the Net.

For the past couple of months I’ve been lamenting to mates about how I really don’t write Emails to people as much as I used to, cos I tend to write these rather long, detail-heavy affairs that take up quite a bit of time, so I urge them to read ‘Shouting etc etc’, and I try to ring them on week-ends, when my minutes are free. But I find it rather scary that there will be a whole generation of people who can’t form proper Emails or letters, let alone paragraphs, without ‘omg hi 2 u’ or some variant being in there somewhere, or worse. It’s not so much a feeling of ‘these consarned kids with their newfangled cell-u-lar phones,’ but more like, ‘As decades pass, future generations will be less and less capable of being able to write properly’. You know, when you’re in an English writing class, much like I was a couple of semesters ago, and the teacher feels that it’s necessary to point out that when writing papers, emoticons and Internet shorthand are unacceptable, and someone asks why, and you just want to stick your index finger through your eye, and into your brain, and swirl it around, just so you have something less painful to focus on.

I’d mentioned the quoted paragraph to Allison during one of our car rides in between shoots. She remarked that she’d read somewhere of an informal study that basically said that between the advent of Email and the beginning of text messaging, people were beginning to write on a regular basis. Their literacy levels didn’t necessarily go up (I’ve always said that the Internet is the largest bastion of illiterates anywhere — AOL, I’m looking in your direction), but people were actually getting back to writing. Of course, text messaging ruined all that for everyone, and now you have sites that look like this. That sure as fuck isn’t proper English. I’m not even sure it’s proper anything.

Now, as regarding my former style of writing (for examples, check any entry to ‘Shouting etc etc’ prior to Nov 2004), I knew that I wasn’t writing in standard English, and I was perfectly capable of doing so, but I was electing not to as an experiment. A ten-year long experiment, but nevertheless. That was the main reason I stopped it, as people would look at my writing style and say ‘well he says he’s a Grammar Nazi, but look how he writes,’ without knowing why I wrote that way. But I’d be hard-pressed to believe that that lass in the blog linked above has higher aspirations for her fast-and-loose take on English. Maybe she’s got the ESL (English as a Second Language) thing going, or you can chalk it up to ‘youthful rebellion’, but I’d say it’s a combination of the herd mentality and laziness. But that’s just me.

I’m at the point where I’m attempting to phase out Internet shorthand out of my own writing; after that, I’ll work on the emoticons. I do realise that language evolves over time, but that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a good idea

Random similar posts, for more timewasting:

I'd like to think that Uncle Crowley would be proud on May 19th, 2005

Sordid graveyard of foodstuffs on July 25th, 2007

10 have spoken to “At the bedside of Mistress English Language, holding her hand as she wastes away”

  1. SafeTinspector writes:

    I personally think that the people who can’t muster up the gumption to properly write are the people that, in prior generations, would have done no writing at all.
    That is, they would not own nor would they know how to operate a typewriter, and would never write a letter unless forced to do so by circumstance.

    I would further posit that one can’t get a college degree by writing thesis papers featuring emoticons, and college graduation rates are not falling at the moment.

    Ignorance is lamentable, but I don’t think its occurance is necessarily accellerative.

    And I read the blog you linked to. That was an amazing read! Where did you find her?
    It’s the literary version of “folk-art”!

  2. atzuzhi & Mari writes:

    “DENSYA-OTOKO”is Japanese Beauty and the geeks.
    check it out-
    misaki ito

  3. Davecat writes:

    atzuzhi-san & MaRi-chan –
    Arigatou for the links! Especially the Misaki Ito pic!
    ‘Densha otoko’ is pretty funny so far. The Hanshin Tigers otaku is a riot. 🙂 Although I’ve heard somewhere that the story is not true..

    Do you visit 2chan at all? I think they used to have a リアルドール board, but now there’s just a 人形 board, which is not as fun.

    I spend too much time on 4chan, WAKAchan, and Funbolt. Too many pics!

    Give MaRi-chan a kiss from Shi-chan and I. Ja mata!

  4. PBShelley writes:

    DC & Sidore-chan,

    A good post! (BTW, recently picked up Morrissey’s “You Are the Quarry” and love it! Any recs?)
    Anyway: Yeah, I agree that letter- writing has fallen to the wayside, or more likely hit by some moving van and lying crushed in the gutter.

    I had to adapt to internet communcations, even though using it even before the Web (through the neat yet dead Delphi ISP) and I STILL haven’t mastered the emoticons… God help me, I even think they are cute! :-O
    (Well, they make me laugh, what can I say? Are people annoyed with them yet? I use them everywhere, oops!)

    I used to write 20-30 page letters to girlfriends while in my teens, so wrote an awful lot due to their encouragement; I even was writing stories as far back as age 11, so I’ve always been a writer of some sort.

    I’m not particularly careful about composing anymore (aside from the novel-writing, natch), as I take forever to organise my thoughts and would rather type honestly and undeceivingly, as I speak, kind of. That I’m scatterbrained is only a little problem, I have to hope LOL

    You are a damn fine writer, I might add, and it humbles me LOL.
    See? Even the acronyms *sigh*
    And the asterisk-actions!
    AGH! IT NEVER ENNNDSS!!! Oops -all caps! Ohno! :-O
    (Note to Self: KNOCK IT OFF!)

    Ahem. But it seems today that a lot of emails and queries go unanswered in general (and certainly not referring to you; I know you feel guilty, STOP THAT! 😉 ), and I really don’t know how to interpret it!!! HELP!!

    Does it mean (a) that the person simply is too busy, (B) that the person didn’t receive your query, (C) said person simply doesn’t care to communicate with you, (D) that this person is a boor, and undeserving of your lengthy well-thought out scribing?

    I’m sure there are others, but I just don’t know how to think about it, in light of today’s “culture”, or lack of same, rather.
    My usual reaction is simply not to write back, or phone back (as to unanswered left- phone messages), figuring that if they don’t have time for me, then why should I take time for them?
    Am I out of touch with reality, or just people (again LOL)?

    PBS & Quiet Lily

  5. Davecat writes:

    You’re calling me a ‘damn fine writer’ that humbles you, but you used to crack out 30-page letters to girlfriends?? Hello, Kettle? This is Pot! You’re black. 🙂

    I dunno though, PBS; I’d like to give people the benefit of a doubt and say that a lot of times, they’re too busy to reply. I mean, with me, it’s kinda like the Arms Race. If I receive a lengthy Email, sometimes I’ll type a near-equal amount in reply, cos it’s sometimes embarrassing if I only write a couple of lines in response.. But you can chalk it up to that, and also, just the fact that really, people don’t write as much as they used to. A lot of the populace are functional illiterates. I used to hang out with this lass from my last job that I had a thing for (despite the fact that she was Organik — I kid, I kid 😉 ), and she could speak intelligently, for the most part, but she showed me her journal entries for a class she was taking that year, and her spelling and grammar were hallucinatory at best, and appalling at worst.
    Most people nowadays speak, but they rarely write. And when they do write, you wish to god they hadn’t. So I wouldn’t say it’s you, it’s the people you interact with.. the ‘non-writers’.

    Or they could just have really shitty time-management skills, like me! Ah ha hahahahahahaaah… aaah.

    And RE.Morrissey: ‘You are the quarry’ is alright, but it’s almost a sham Mozzer-album as compared to his earlier works. To me, his solo stuff doesn’t rate too well compared to before The Smiths broke up, but ‘Viva hate’ and ‘Bona drag’ (his first and second solo releases, respectively) are essential. Also, having said that, any and all Smiths Cds are must-buys, but if you have to choose one, grab ‘Louder than bombs’. Shi-chan suggests ‘Meat is murder’, but that’s her favourite Smiths album…
    These days, Morrissey is still in full posession of his Wilde wit, but without the Smiths (especially Johnny Marr), the music he’s singing to lacks the depressing charm that made him a household word. That is to say, in the better households. 😉

  6. PBShelley writes:

    Hi DC,

    I think I just need to exhibit a little more understanding and/or patience. There is so little time these days for bound-up and “connected” folks that it indeed must be a time-managment thing.
    I don’t own ipods or any other peripherals other than a laptop (and a 486 to boot LOL). But I feel so free…
    And isolated, but that can’t be helped 😛 We’ll get caught up sooner or later!

    Thanks for the Morrissey tips, speaking of catching up LOL

    Cheers, all (& hugs and squishes to Sidore-chan from Lily-chan)
    PBS & The Other One 😉

  7. Jeff "Wolfgang" Lilly writes:

    I’d just like to spoil the party a bit by pointing out that language is a fluid and evolving thing that reflects the mores and whiles of the generation that “abuses” it. But it isn’t abuse- it is nature. I used to get angry at the well-meaning folks who tried to correct me when I used, for example, a double negative… I would always ask them if they could understand what I meant when I used it. They said “of course, but…” and I would cut them off there, having made my point.
    If language didn’t evolve, we would be culturally poorer… not to mention having a limited lexicon with which to describe the new inventions and sensations of the day. The Chinese have had this problem for years, refusing to make up new characters for new inventions… so they have to rely on clunky combinations of old characters to express the concepts of, say, “computer” or “airplane”…
    English is, of course, a “bastard” language to all those who spoke Latin (this is why the King James Bible was such a big deal…) American English is a bastard form of the Queen’s English, Quebecois French is a bastard child of Parisian French, etc. You know what? As any number of humans and dogs prove, mutts are hardier than “purebreds”. Languages that evolve are more useful and dynamic than static ones (like “official” French, which cannot distinguish betwen “mind” and “brain”). Modern English itself came from the violent collision of Old English, Saxon, and French… and has given us the flexibility and leisure of having a great many shades of meaning available to us (“red” and “crimson”, to name one of millions).
    Every generation will unfailingly bitch about the new generation and their “inability to use proper language”. It’s been going on since the time of the Greeks and before. Don’t be scared of the new… embrace it!
    Funny… I don’t hear anyone speaking Latin here…

  8. Davecat writes:

    I can’t say that I’d enjoy habitually speaking Latin, but I remember hearing somewhere that were it not for a single vote back when the United states was founded, we would have German as our national language. Which sucks, cos I like Deutsche — it’s very efficient.

    Anyway, like I’d said, I’m aware that language is fluid and evolves over the years, but nevertheless, you can’t tell me that you don’t wince just a little bit when you hear people who say ‘ain’t got no’, or write ‘should of’ instead of ‘should have’, or who fail to place question marks at the ends of their interrogative sentences, or who can’t distinguish between ‘lose’ and ‘loose’. It’s lazy, and I honestly don’t think society has anything to gain from such who-gives-a-shit behaviour. Furthermore, coming up with new words for new and current concepts is completely acceptable, but screwing around with words and grammatical consistencies that have served us quite well for hundreds of years is a little ridiculous.

    Math is an exacting science, why should language be let off the hook? OTEHRWIZE WE MITE OF AS WELL ALL SPEEK AND RITE LIKE THIS. In which case, please pass the suicide. 🙁

  9. robin writes:

    Misaki Ito was beautiful even when she was younger

  10. Davecat writes:

    I’ve got those photos of her in the kimono! (Blame 4chan.) She was kind of a generic cute back in 1998, but she’s really blossomed into a beauty, now that she’s older. Good Job, Misaki, and Well Done!

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