June 6, 2014 3:21 pm

When English and social media collide

Watch above: social media – the end of a language?

SASKATOON – LOLs and OMGs – those terms and others like them dominate today’s social media world. The question is – can those terms co-exist with the so called proper English language?

Professor Peter Robinson at the University of Saskatchewan says “yes.”

“If you want the English language to stop developing, then you’ll kill it,” said Robinson, a professor of medieval English at the university.

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Flip open a current edition of the Oxford English Dictionary and you’ll find tweeting is not just for the birds. “Sexting” is also in there, along with LOL and LMAO.

Abbreviations of common words date back centuries.

“When monks were writing manuscripts in the 14th century, they didn’t write LOL and LMAO, but they used to abbreviate common letters and words,” said Robinson.

“They used to write ‘ix’ instead of Jesus Christ, for example. That’s a very early form – if you like – of early Twitter.”

But is abbreviating words making people lazy and is it dumbing down the English language?

No, said some students from Saskatoon Public School Division.

“When you have to text full long words, often it kind of slows down the conversation and it kind of defeats the purpose, so I think that’s one of the reasons why you have those abbreviations,” said grade 8 student Anwyn Diakuw.

“It’s interesting how every older generation always feels like the new generation is somehow destroying our language and our culture,” said grade 10 student Leora Diakuw.

“I don’t really feel that’s the case. I think we’re just finding new ways to communicate. And obviously, since it hasn’t really been a problem in the 18th century when professors were complaining about it before, I don’t think it’s necessarily a problem right now.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Robinson.

“As soon as you say we’re not going to embrace new media, what you’ll do is you’ll put the experts off into one little walled garden in which they can read books and talk to each other happily and the rest of the world is going to go out there and they’re going to use Twitter and Facebook and they’ll send text messages and they’ll do LOLs and OMGs – all this stuff you see – and LMAOs and things will carry on.”

While he may be well versed in classical literature, he’s not afraid to LOL and encourages his students to embrace it.

“I’ve just been marking a group of students, my honour students. There’s 13 kids in the class. Only one person in the class did what you would call a traditional essay. One guy did a filmstrip for Beowulf. Somebody else did a version of a Medieval Saint’s Life for Facebook…someone else did a picture annotation about it, a couple people did blogs.”

So while some might say we live in an age of abbreviations … ICYMI, you only have 140 characters or less to express your thoughts on Twitter to your BFF and the rest of the world. GMAB, that’s more than just a little pressure. IKR?

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