There are a few things in life for which my non-participation is guaranteed; skydiving, synchronized swimming and red trousers are three, using texting abbreviations is another. However, for my children, the use of acronyms now seems to be preferred to actual words in most forms of communication.
Being a journalist by trade, I like to ensure that everything I write is as accurate as it can be in regards to spelling, punctuation and grammar. Whether it’s an article, a post, or a text message, this same rule applies, even if it does make me the slowest texter on earth. The prospect of using texting abbreviations therefore sits as uncomfortably with me as the prospect of spell checking my son’s English homework.
Of course, I understand that the English language is always evolving, expanding and diversifying over time, driven by popular youth culture and the wonderfully diverse society in which we live. However, while inevitable and wonderful in equal measure, none of this can get away from the fact that I now need an Enigma machine to decode my children’s WhatsApp messages.
Despite all this though, I’m not a complete text novice, I have LOLed in the past and, through gritted teeth, might even have thrown in the occasional ‘c u later.’ But, when compared to today’s mobile addicted youth, I am a complete Neanderthal. Their abbreviated vocabulary is so vast and their ability to decode so quick, that it’s like an entirely new language.
Take this conversation with my daughter as a case in point:
Text savvy 10-year-old: Plz Dad can u unlock my phn?
Me: Yes, of course, I’ll do it in a minute.
Text savvy 10-year-old: kk tysm
Text savvy 10-year-old: ty 4 the phn
Me: That’s ok, what time shall we go to the shop later?
Text savvy 10-year-old: iu2u idm
And so it goes on.
However, abbreviated language also now extends beyond the phone, as the children throw acronyms into every day conversations.
“Are you serious, that’s unbelievable!”
JK what? Rowling? Since when was it deemed necessary to abbreviate ‘joke’ – a mere four letter word – by 50%? Indeed, by abbreviating it to ‘jk’ they’ve actually changed a one syllable word to a two syllable slang term, making it twice as long to vocalise.
I don’t think I’ll ever understand why young people voluntarily make life more complicated for themselves by reducing every day parlance to complex combinations of letters. Life is full of too many unnecessary real acronyms anyway, without having to worry about made up ones.
RSVP, TCP, IOU, B&Q… the list is endless.
A generational challenge
Language is of course generational too and, whereas my parents probably struggled with teenage me saying that things were ‘lush, bad, rad, cool, hot, phat, mint and tight’ – we equally struggle with modern day slang.
I have, for example, no idea what it means to ‘slay,’ or to ‘get wrecked,’ despite regularly being told to do both by my children.
Thankfully, I’m not alone. This post was prompted after I read a great article on Hi Blog! I’m Dad in which the author talked about his relationship with his teenage daughter and how his use of a teenage slang term caused hysterics amongst his daughter’s friends.
It seems the phenomena of parental ignorance and embarrassed children spans continents. So, while I accept that there’s no hope for us, I do think there’s a way parents can level the playing field.
My wife and I have taken to using our own acronyms – some real, some entirely made up – to confuse our children and play them at their own game.
“Are you ready for school? Have you got your HRC?”
“Whatever you do, don’t sit on the RSW.”
Seeing the puzzled looks on their faces as they attempt to decipher our nonsensical acronyms is fiendishly satisfying. Genuine acronyms, meanwhile, are a great way to talk in code within the presence of unsuspecting children.
So, get creative, unite against the cheeky blighters and win back some power