Requiem for the English Language, Part One: You Can’t Outrun The Long Arm Of The LAW

Imagine what a quick read The Bible will be when the texters take over.

Imagine what a quick read The Bible will be when the texters take over.

I’m giving my dictionary a Viking funeral today.  The English language is dead, taken out Caesar-style, by a rabid mob comprised of pop stars, chickenshit English teachers, the communication zeigeist known as texting, and a certain unstoppable three-headed monster that I’ll get to later.  Truth be told, I probably should have administered services a long time ago.  But I guess in that way I’m like one of those old people who, deranged by denial, cohabitate with the mummified remains of their moms, and collect her Social Security checks until the cops come a-knocking.  (If you think about it enough, everyone has something in common.)  The English language has sort of rotted into a book-shaped crater in its little death bed, and it’s time to admit all the Glade Plugins in the free world aren’t going to hide the gut-wrenching funk of its demise any more.

All the signs were right in front of my face the entire time.  The question of when exactly first one popped up along the road has been a matter of debate amongst my friends for some time.  One insists the first cut came when REM capriciously dropped the apostrophe from the title of their 1986  album Lifes Rich Pageant.  I disagree.  I think it happened four years before that, when Prince broke big with his 1999 album.  In 1999, Prince is a nuclear physicist of a pint-sized pop star linguist who splits the “you” like an atom, setting off the explosion of a new age in which “you” is now “u” and the remaining “yo” is both a second-person possessive and a greeting.  He is also an oracle who fortells of a world in which abbreviations of words become  words in and of themselves, as in another song, called “D.M.S.R.”  I’m afraid to break this to my friend, though, as she is a huge Prince fan, and I don’t want to run the risk of her unfriending me (How exciting: “friend” is actually a verb that you can undo by tacking on an “un”!) on Facebook.  Or, FB, I should say.

Not to be a stick in the mud, (or an SITM, if you will), but this letters-as-words thing is going to be a problem for me.  By letters-as-words, I’m marking a distinction between the LAW (if you will) and the common acroynm.  The acronym, as all you super-smart texter teens are probably aware, is a word made of letters of an abbreviation of a name too long to say in one breath.  NASA is a prime example.  The only people who refer to NASA as National Aeronautics and Space Administration clearly have too much time on their hands and no social priorities whatsoever.  Nobody wants to be confused with that sort of person, so NASA it is.  NASA, however, is a word, not a jumble of letters that are considered words, like FB.  Now, I know the name is officially “Facebook”, but it’s increasingly being referred to as FB these days, and since the linguistic trend favors words as they are said over how they are written, it will soon come to pass that Facebook is FB.

My problem with this, and all LAWs (which works nicely as an acronym, but don’t hold that against me), is that their usage requires a certain hipness to be used correctly.  Let’s take the ubiquitous LOL as a case in point.  LOL, as all you super-hip literature professors are probably aware, is LAW for “laugh out loud”.  Left to my own devices, I would probably take LOL to be shorthand for Lollapalooza, or, if pushed for an abbreviative root material candidate, I’d go with Let’s Obliterate Language.  OMG?  Ongoing Methodological Gutbuster.  WTF?  Wonderful Transient Fatwah, definitely.  Of course, I know better, but that’s only thanks to my acquaintance with the young people who have helped me cross the streets of modern English.  However, after this blog sees the light of day, I may very well be on my own, so “FUBAR*” shall be my lot.  I’m prepared to “BOHICA*” and take it like a man when that time comes.  (Acronymns, and very old ones at that.  They might as well be wearing threadbare Van Halen shirts and proposing to your mom, really, so I’m screwed.)

*FUBAR=Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition and BOHICA=Bend Over Here It Comes Again.

This episode was brought to you by the letters W, T, and F.

This episode was brought to you by the letters W, T, and F.

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2 Responses to “Requiem for the English Language, Part One: You Can’t Outrun The Long Arm Of The LAW”

  1. kelly Says:

    You’re right about Prince. He is absolutely to blame, no question about it. I’m just so used to giving him a godlike-genius free pass on every wack-ass thing he does–for 25+ years!–that his language abuse seems like a relatively minor offense. Dogging Prince for his number and letter substitutions is like criticizing John Wayne Gacy for the careless way he paints pine trees:

    But you’re right. It all started in back in 1981 when Little Man was writing lyrics in his purple spiral notebook, and they formed in his mind so rapidly that he was forced to abbreviate some of them just to keep up.

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