'Glastonbury festival, cat hat, and the long lived Nokia 3310'

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

David Crystal's Work. 'Texts and Tweets: Myths and Realities'.

Earlier this week I was sent a link to a YouTube video by someone on Twitter which is of great interest to my chosen topic of txting. It is a video of a conference which David Crystal did last year all about the myths of txting. I have spent a lot of time this morning making a transcript of his speech. I will copy it below.

He starts by introducing a number of myths about txting such as 'children in schools miss out letters in words because they don't know how to spell' etc but then goes on to prove that all the myths are indeed incorrect.

The video can been see here  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Boj8VYzDAy8&feature=youtube_gdata_player

“The myth is that this new txt messaging thing, and maybe also this tweeting thing, is full of new fangled abbreviations. Full of them. The basis for that belief was a 2003 hoax essay that was circulated on the internet supposedly written by a student, and presented to their teacher who was unable to understand it. The teacher supposedly was so shocked by the fact this school essay, a piece of homework, was entirely in this abbreviations, it was all about a summer holiday in New York if you may remember the example, that she put it up on the web and everybody was horrified. The tabloids got hold of it, this is the disaster which is expected to happen you see. Everybody believed that this is what students did in school every day and that txt messaging was like this. It was indeed a hoax but the entire thing was treated as if it was veracity by the press.  So the first part of the Myth is that txt messages are full of these abbreviations, moreover they are new fangled abbreviations introduced by the young people of today for one of two reasons. Either because they are deliberately trying to construct a language of obscurity so that adults would not be able to understand them, on the one hand, or from the other hand, they just don’t know how to spell and they are doing it inadvertently, on the other. That leads to the third myth, the new fangled abbreviations are as a result of a generation  that does no longer know how to spell, um that they are leaving letters out because they don’t know they should be there in the first place. This is turn leads to the fourth myth which is the one that the school teacher presented on the web, or the supposed school teacher, that in school kids no longer know the difference between how to spell correctly and how to spell incorrectly so therefore school essays are full of inadvertently places abbreviations, and moreover they are now turning up in exams and examiners everywhere are complaining all over the world that the examination scripts are full of these abbreviations and children are failing their exams everywhere as a result. The consequence of all of this of course is we are rearing the generation of children who have no sense of responsibility for language whatsoever, and if this were a case then it might indeed be that there is a glimmer of truth in what John Humphries actually had to say”

In fact none of those five myths are remotely true, everyone of them is fundamentally false. And we know this now because over the past ten years, and it is just ten years since the first text started to be circulated, a huge amount of research has been done...And the facts are these:
-          Myth one – text messages are full of abbreviations:
o   The truth? No they are not. If you collect a huge pile of texts, you will find that one average only 10% of the words that you put into your collection of text messaging are actually abbreviated. Abbreviations like ‘C’ for ‘see’ and ‘U’ for ‘you’ and ‘l8r’ with the 8 instead of, numeral 8 there. Or words like message -msg or LOL, laughing out loud.  Things of that kind. 10% of the words on average. In actual fact people don’t abbreviate as much as you think they do.  (80% of text messages in cyber space are between adults).

-          Myth two – The abbreviations, cooked up by the youth of today:
o   We are the first generation to see ‘C U L8r?’ Not a bit. Lewis Carole played with this sort of thing and it was a very very popular past time to cook up these rebases they called them for summer evening and winter evening when there was not television, no radio, no internet and what else do you do? You play language games. The Victorian fascination with language games was amazing. From the Royal Family down people played language games. Queen Victoria said things like ‘C U L8R’. So there is nothing new fangled about these abbreviations.

-          Myth three – Kids are leaving out letters in words because they are not there, they cannot spell.
(DAVID CRYSTAL HAS BEEN TO NUMEROUS SCHOOLS AND INTERVIEWED MOSTLY SIXTH FORMERS AND ASKED WHY THEY LEAVE LETTERS OUT. HERE ARE THE MOST COMMON RESPONSES.)
o   Economically more efficient to abbreviate, it can save money in some systems whilst paying for messages.  
o   Main is reason is because it’s cool. It’s fashionable. It’s a cool think to do.
o   The main point is that if it is cool to leave letters out then you have to know that they are there in the first place!
o   IT TURNS OUT THAT THE BEST TXTERS ARE ACTUALLY THE BEST SPELLERS. In order to actually text well you have to be quite literate.

-          Myth four – Kids are so unaware of what they are doing, so irresponsible, that they are putting these things into their school work and into their exams.
o   When David Crystal goes into schools he asks the teachers, “do you see these things in the school work?” and most teachers say “Nope”. They remember the occasional example but are all the kids doing it all the time? They are not.
o   When David Crystal asks the kids themselves, “would you put these abbreviations in your homework?” he says that they look him as if he is nuts.
o   He see a group of young people who know exactly what the difference is between a style of language which has been devised for the use on a mobile phone and the style of language which you need in order to talk efficiently
o   When David Crystal asks examiners “do you see txtisms in examination scripts? The answer is universally no.  The kids don’t do it.


I felt that this transcripts were the key points that David Crystal made. There is a huge mythology about txting out there and it is likely that at some point we have all felt them to be true.

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