The end of civilization? Revoicing txt

I borrowed the title for this blog post from an article by an old friend and colleague of mine, Victoria Carrington, who is sadly no longer with us (she returned to Australia, see). Victoria introduced the term 'squeeze text' or 'txt' to describe the respellings that have emerged due to short message services where 160 characters or less prompt abbreviations and other contrivances. Words and phrases such as gr8, cu2moro and l8r, (a short glossary is available) have caused consternation amongst purists of grammar and spelling, hence the 'end of civilisation' imprecation. Such respellings may however be simply evidence of a continuing process of evolution for the English language. In the new volume 'Connected Minds, Emerging Cultures', a chapter written by Tim Shortis explores this notion in greater detail. Tim considers the way texting is challenging the orthodoxy of spelling, and shows that there are...

...textual pressures that act on users' choices. ICT and the Internet have not so much changed spelling as reregulated what counts as spelling, and in doing so, there is a challenge to the official educational discourses of literacy, and particularly as they apply to literacy (p 225).

Tim is very vocal in his belief that text respelling is nothing new, although the technology being used to convey the messages is. The 'vernacular orthographies' - slang and reduced spellings used in txt messages - have influences, he says, which go beyond the limited 160 characters, embracing a number of other influences including trade names and popular culture. This is a well written and challenging chapter, and I suspect the purists amongst us who baulk against the idea of txters creating their own new spellings of words, will probably be in no position to complain in 30-40 years time when 'Generation Y' have become the captains of industry, head teachers and military commanders, and we have all joined the ranks of the retired.

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