Descriptive linguistics FTW!

Last night after a Board meeting, I was talking with friends and one expressed shock bordering on horror that I text using abbreviations and conventions created and commonly accepted within that linguistic space.

“I’m rather surprised to find out you’re an LOL and OMG and emoticon person.”

Well, I’m a linguistically adaptable person, actually. I don’t use those conventions outside texts and social media, in which characters are constrained and, generally, keyboarding is limited. I don’t say “LOL” in conversation, nor when using a keyboard. I do, though, use LOL where it is a standard part of the lexicon, because I’m speaking in a colloquial language and don’t feel the need, surrounded by LOLers, to destroy my reputation and thumbs with “oh, wow, that is truly funny.”  Recall David Foster Wallace’s review of Bryan Gardner’s Modern American Usage (which review appears in the nonfiction essay collection Consider the Lobster, and which review reiterated the annoying grammatical tic in which Wallace uses “which” in ways that make me itch ), in which Wallace explains that, when talking with Midwestern friends he uses expressions like “where you at?” because conditional, situational lexical conformity performs significant social functions including masking an erudite prescriptivist snobbery amongst those who disdain such ridiculousness. You know the type…for instance, the raised eyebrow of disdain arched toward a friend who fully embraces emoticons in text messages.

My friend last night seemed to believe that my using LOL and winky emoticons made me shockingly deviant in my linguistic standards. But am I actually failing the language because I OMG when I reply to a text about how awful I am at karaoke? Of course not. (I am, however, failing both George Michael and Rick Springfield when I belt their songs in a key somewhere between those singers’ ranges and my own. Said performances deserved several horrified OMGs.)

The older I get, the more I tend toward descriptivist linguistics. I have been out of academia long enough to know we can’t stem the tide of language shifts, texting enough that I appreciate the culture’s willingness to embrace an abbreviated language parallel to government employees’ acronym dialect, and old enough to know that my pedantic “kids these days are ruining the language” tendencies unveil a knowledge that kids these days are actually going to rule the world. And I, for one, I don’t want to be railing against their language from my rocking chair, cane aloft, countering every miscast objective who with “it’s whom, you linguistic hoodlums!”

Okay, yes, I do.

But I am in my old age moving toward the point of linguistic early adoption, at least within technological theaters.  I gleefully read the Atlantic’s piece about the new preposition, used in online English. Though I was late to OMG and LOL and LMAO, I have jumped on the prepositional-because trend, thanks to my social-media bestie, Twitter.

I love Twitter. I don’t read my feed as much as I used to, for in the land of “may your days be merry and bright starting next week with a rare Thanksgivukkah,” I don’t have time to get my Twitter fix. But I’m quite fond of the prepositional-because.

I do plan, however, on shaking my cane from my rocking chair and bellowing, “it’s not a ‘because-noun!’ Because grammatical naming conventions!”

Go check out the article, whether you find my texts irritatingly colloquial or not. The Atlantic has posted as pleasant a read on descriptive-linguistic developments as possible, and that’s saying a lot.

Which language deviances do you commit in limited settings? Do you eschew LOL unless you’re actually laughing out loud? Will you text a “K” to avoid all those messy characters in “okay”? Do you reject all emoticons or employ them with reckless abandon? Have you crossed into “srsly” and “pls” to save characters or do you share Steve Martin’s insistence on proper spelling in Tweets?

8 thoughts on “Descriptive linguistics FTW!

  1. I don’t know if you recall a post of mine from sometime last year. Something about a death wish for “LOL” Since then, I have adopted the “if you can’t beat em join em” attitude. I still can’t bring myself to use “LOL” specifically and I really don’t know why. I think it is because the acronym fully written out does not fit most instances in which it is used. Rarely am I LOLing, but merely chuckling (if not just a slightly upturned, one-sided grin). OMG works for me because it does fit the response most often. But, back to your entry. I remember feeling the same way when I learned you use this text lingo….shocked and slightly less judgemental toward it. Therein may lie the catalyst for my acceptance of it. “Well, if Christine uses it, I guess it’s the sophisticated thing to do”

    • You’re funny, Em. I can’t imagine typing “chuckling in a casual way,” but in that situation I’d write, “haha.” Any more mirth at all gets LOL. Because I’m not writing, “hahaha” for fear of being that crackly old whiskey voiced lady who hahahacks up something questionable when she laughs.

  2. you know, i just can’t seem to shake hahah for a laugh. can’t do it. LOL never quite settled with me, but i am certainly not offended when someone else uses it. i’m just an old-fashioned girl, i guess, a few years away from the opportunity to join the aarp, sans the retirement part.

    recently, whilst indulging in ridiculous office IMs, overuse of various emoticons seems to be bringing me pleasure. go figure! LOL all you want, nappy. fuck ’em all!

  3. I totally abbreviate when I text or tweet. I don’t get what the big deal is. It’s hard to type on my phone. I love my iPhone but the touch screen is so much harder than the tactile of the blackberry I had before that. Plus, you use so many erudite words in this post, that no one could possibly think you’re a linguistic hoodlum.

  4. I started to read this post the other day when I was extremely tired and all of the big words made my head spin so I had to come back to it today. I embrace all of the languages deviances now and then. LOL is the hardest for me to swallow, but I have done it. I had to be more of a language and editing stickler in my old job, so I kind of love breaking the rules now. Because rebel.

    • Learn the rules so you can break them. Believe me, I’m not embracing “could of” and “should of” and supposively.” I have standards. But I accept tech-specific colloquialisms. Because hip.

      Ha. Even I don’t believe that.

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