Thanks Internet!

Thanks Internet! The Devolution of the English Language

Disclaimer: This is a paper - a generalization, to be precise - written for my AP English class. Like many things in life, it's not meant to be taken seriously, nor is it meant to offend. Well, much.

“hi,” the message said as an IM window from AOL popped up on my screen. Little seven-year-old simply stared at the monitor, smiling. Finally, human contact! Well, it was contact in the means of interaction via digital lines.

“Hello,” I typed back, my index fingers pecking out the letters on the keyboard. My small hands moved nimbly despite being untrained in typing, quickly betraying the age I claimed to be.

“how r u,” they asked, though the letters had me pause and think for a moment. Why on earth did they not just type out the extra four letters? Not to mention the missing whereabouts of the shift key.

“I’m fine,” I replied. Deciding the conversation was moving at snail’s pace, I added, “Did you see Zoids today?”

“yea. it wuz awesom”

"Awesom"? What happened to the e? And I thought "yea" was spelled "yeah" – at least, that’s what Mary Pope Osborne and The Magic Tree House had taught me. Choosing to ignore this, I fired off a “The ending was kind of lame,” message to continue the chat.

“lol yea”.

And thusly, my seven-year-old brain was lost. How the heck did you pronounce "lol"? Lull? Lowl? Better yet, what did it mean?

The internet. The world wide web. The information super highway. Call it what you want, it’s still the same item – that electronic wonder that has transformed the way we work, play, and interact. Unlimited possibilities await one when they log on, as they are no longer limited by their physical location or form. Truly, the internet is one of the most powerful inventions since the light bulb.

But along with those positives come the glaring negatives. Malicious viruses, hackers, false information, and complete jerks are among those downsides. However, the one that has had the most impact on me, seventeen-year-old student and WWW junkie, is the horrid devolution of grammar and basic English mechanics.

I’m not sure why, but I was never able to adopt to the common ways of internet speak. Even as a youngster, my words were typed in full, my sentences properly punctuated, my proper nouns capitalized and verbs conjugated. You would think that being exposed to such mutilations of language at an early age would impact me to go with the flow. But like choking on a cigarette and not understanding the thrill, typing out abbreviations, dropping letters, and glossing over punctuation took longer to do than not.

I must live in Bizarro world, though, for it seems that most people exist on a plane that can understand mutilated English. Did that part of my brain simply not develop? As time wore on and I, along with the internet, grew up, the amount of exposure I received to this new language grew. Hanging around message boards, LiveJournal (an online journaling community), and DeviantArt (another online community, this one revolving around sharing your artwork), not to mention blossoming friends lists on instant messengers, didn’t exactly help. More often than not, I encounter those who prefer to make themselves sound like a toddler who randomly decided to start slapping the keyboard.

Why people communicate this way simply confounds me. Those of us who do bother typing properly oftentimes ridicule these people who can’t be bothered remembering grade-school grammar. While we know that the people behind the text are normal folks with school, jobs, families, and friends, it feels as if their online persona is someone still learning basic English and is therefore below the age of ten.

My crowning moment of glory came when I was eight and chatting away to a fellow anime fan about some series or another. We had been communing for a while, and when I revealed my tender age, he responded with amused shock. “the way you type,” he joked, “it’s like i’m the eight-year-old and you’re the sixteen-year-old”. True, the only notch I had above him was capitalizing, but in the end, my language was superb. Thusly, the story of my internet life came about: behind the wit and sarcasm was not a twenty-six-year-old office clerk, but rather a twelve-year-old middle schooler.

So why don’t we commune properly? Is there some sort of pleasure that comes from making yourself sound like, well, an idiot? What if my experiences were reversed – that at the age of seventeen, somebody asked if I was nine, and that the reason behind said question was due to how I typed out some whiny journal entry? I don’t know about you, but that’s a memory I’d rather not have.

They’re. Their. There. I before E except after C. S, not Z, is the standard way to pluralize. Letters like U and R are not the words ‘you’ and ‘are’. Sentences start with capital letters, and I swear numbers do not translate into words. Language exists for a reason…but if you want to blow it off and make yourself a cretin, go ahead. I can’t stop you.

Just remember: Every time you type ‘lol’, one of your English teachers dies.