The Death of the English Language?

Posted by Rachel Nauen

Many people get riled up about the current state of the English language. The introduction of instant messaging and texting into the lives of Americans has greatly affected the way we communicate, and many are not happy about it.

Our language is changing daily. According to MSNBC, the Oxford Dictionaries Online have recently added a number of new words to the dictionary, including sexting, buttload, and nom nom. To the dismay of English teachers everywhere, instant messaging lingo is sneaking into academic papers across the country. Newspapers and magazines are battling the 24/7 communication cycle as it cuts into the time that used to be spent editing copy.

Advocates of adapting the English language to reflect today’s society state that keeping up with the times is key to survival. “Language is always changing, evolving, and adapting to the needs of its users,” says Betty Birner of the Linguistic Society of America. “It changes for several reasons. First, it changes because the needs of its speakers change. New technologies, new products, and new experiences require new words to refer to them clearly and efficiently.”

However, some people are not letting the language adapt to the current times without a fight. Moaning the loss of meaningful contact and correct grammar, enemies of the “textese” movement say our language is changing for the worse. Gene Weingarten, a writer at the Washington Post, cries, “Beset by the need to cut costs, and influenced by decreased public attention to grammar, punctuation and syntax in an era of unedited blogs and abbreviated instant communication, newspaper publishers have been cutting back on the use of copy editing, sometimes eliminating it entirely.”

Should we work on separating the influence of technology from our language? Do you find influences from texting and instant messaging in your written work or the work around you? Is our language heading in the “wrong” direction?

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3 responses to “The Death of the English Language?

  1. It baffles me that “nom nom” could be added to the dictionary. I’ve used it in texts, as well as having friends text it to me or use it as a hashtag on twitter, but never did I think it could be considered an actual word.

    For example, I could never picture myself using nom nom or buttload in a paper I would turn in for a class. Sexting could be, and has been used, but the other two [nom nom and buttload] would look like a definite typo or mistake by the writer.

  2. I really think it is just a matter of time before many words are used so often they become natural to use in papers or formal writing. A few years ago, using the word “sexting” in a publication would probably have caused an uproar. Language is constantly evolving and there is no stopping it. The words “thee” and “thou” are now practically unknown and unused, whereas a few centuries ago they were perfectly acceptable. While shorthand such as “lol” and “omg” may never be tolerated in formal writing, I think adaptation to words like”tweet” and “buttload” is just going to take some time.

  3. Christy Wittmer

    I hope that we the words like “buttload” and “nom nom” never become acceptable to use in papers. Because then we mine as well throw out the definition of professional and write a new one.

    I agree that the language is adaptive to the generations over time. A great example is to pick up a Bible. The message is the same, but the translations are adaptive to the generations over time. There is a big difference between King James and the New Living Translations.

    I feel that the way we text, e-mail, or tweet have no connection to how we talk, and that we never actually write the way we talk. Our generation seems to have a knack for coming up with jargon that baffles the older generations, and we seem to annoying use the word “like” ever other word. But when we write we should be mindful of professionalism and stick to the real dictionaries.

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