Perhaps, you’ve noticed it — SMART telecom’s new advert exhorting everyone to spell correctly. I have far too many gripes against SMART but, this time, I am writing to congratulate the telecom giant. About time it paid attention to what the SMS culture has done to this generation’s ability to spell correctly.
The TV advert shows a group of friends playing SCRABBLE. One of them spells out S-U-M-T-Y-M-Z then jumps with glee thinking that he just pulled a scoring coup. Then, the written message appears — spell correctly. The presentation is simple but the message is unmistakable.
I don’t know who it was that started the trend of spelling words by removing the vowels. Some say it is a spillover from chatroom lingo where “how r u?” has long been acceptable and understood exactly as “how are you?”
But the “why” always puzzled me. Within a year or two after the first digital handsets came out, they already had this feature called “predictive text” — a feature that cannot be found in any chatroom or instant messaging service. So, if it was a question of not knowing the correct spelling of certain English words, well, there was predictive text. I mean, that wouldn’t be too surprising — English is not our first language and spelling some English words can be tricky.
But for those who text in Filipino… gee, how does one make a mistake spelling Filipino words? They are spelled exactly as they are pronounced. So, what’s the point of removing the vowels, substituting numbers for letters and making all kinds of shortcuts?
Some are quick to judge that it is laziness. Or stupidity. Or a combination of both. I don’t know which is it; I only know that when used to excess, the text lingo irritates me endlessly.
When my own daughter, now 14, started sending text messages with those incomprehensible words, I panicked. Was it a sign of regressive learning? Would she start writing her schoolwork in such a manner? So I nagged her. Mercilessly. But she just went on doing it. To her credit, and to my relief, for the past two years, one of the best moments of the Parent-Teacher Conferences that my husband and I attended was listening to her teachers describe how wonderfully she wrote. Her essays, her analytical and critical thinking, were excellent. In short, her use of the text lingo wasn’t a sign of deteriorating intellectual capacity nor was it affecting her schoolwork. So, fine.
That takes me back to the question of why do the young love composing text messages in such a manner? Well, it finally hit me. It’s a generation thing, of course. The GenX is making its own statement and asserting its uniqueness by breaking every rule in phonetics and spelling with its own language as exemplified in the chatroom, IM and SMS. It isn’t much different from what acid was to the 60’s generation, disco in the 70’s or the big hairdos and padded shoulders of the 80’s. The screwed spelling is part of the fashion and social statement of the youth of the new millenium.
But what about the not-so-young who compose their text messages using the GenX’s style? I don’t know. Maybe, it’s their way of feeling “in” and young and cool.