Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Are blogs really the miracle cure? 

Well, maybe not for everything -- for that you need prescription snake oil -- but I have found yet another malady for which blogs are the cure. It appears to me that blogging may end up being the counterweight to instant messaging's alleged destructive impact on the English language:

Carl Sharp knew there was a problem when he spotted his 15-year-old son's summer job application: "i want 2 b a counselor because i love 2 work with kids."

That night, the father in Phoenix removed the AOL Instant Messenger program from the family computer and informed both his children they were no longer to chat with friends online.

"That shorthand comes from talking on the Internet, and it's unacceptable," Sharp says. "I never thought I'd be encouraging my kids to talk on the telephone, but I realized that the constant chatting on the Internet was destroying their ability to write properly."
This probably goes for other languages as well, for example: fighting the usage "y 2 madre tambien" in Spanish. But I really don't know much about these other languages. While I truly am omniscient in all things, that applies only to English. In furrin' languages, I'm mostly omnignorant.

The article goes on to quote other parents and educators, the inescapable conclusion being that instant messaging is destroying the world, and that kids (these days) don't even know how 2 rite English. The sad result is that this crop of American teens may actually fail to produce another Emily Dickinson, a Ralph Waldo Emerson, and may, in the end, do no better than finding the next Eminem.


Even if the next Emily Dickinson were actually IM'ing away, lauding her friends' social skills in lengthy text messages her buds can barely read, for her to actually bother binding up all that iambic pentameter into a book and trying to sell it as poetry just doesn't seem to be smart business in the MTV marketplace. Perhaps she could set them to heavy bass, and sell it as a new musical form: reclusive lyrical poet-rap.

In the meantime, the rest of us will learn to read the numbers 2 and 4 as words when they appear in business plans and opera play bills.

But wait. There is relief at hand. Blogs.

Blogs are the anti-IM when it comes to usage of language. Of course some teen blogs are basically IM session transcripts cross bred with html and javascript, suffering from all the same symptoms of inbreeding as the source, and then some. But a large fraction of blogs make use of full sentences, punctuation and proper spelling. This is not just a stylistic choice, but an essential element of the medium.

For in order to be found, a blog must use the keywords in the same spellings as those expected by the prospective, searching readers. And the text must use punctuation and clear language so readers can easily digest the blogger's opinions , lest they get intellectual indigestion and search elsewhere for the definitive fish bait blog. Convention in language must be honored, or a blog will become just an isolated blister for a small community of teens, all sharing the same misspellings and abbreviations.

So blog well. Use your dictionary. Remember, the language you save might be your own.
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