THE END OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION

Someone who wanted to be one heartbeat away from the presidency – and who fully intends to run for the top spot directly in 2012 – wrote the following:

Arrogant&Naive2say man overpwers nature. … Earth saw clmate chnge4 ions;will cont 2 c chnges.R duty2responsbly devlop resorces4humankind/not pollute&destroy;but cant alter naturl chng

As you no doubt can guess, this message is from the Gov. Quitter's "Twitter" feed. Yes, Sarah Palin is stupid but this type of communication is all too common on Twitter (if you want to gouge your eyes out, try taking a glance at some famous athletes' Twitter posts – it's about what you'd expect, only 1000 times worse). And that is why Twitter is going to be the final nail in the coffin of whatever remains of our collective writing skills.

I have a 6 year-old cell phone. It's ancient by the standards of cell phone technology. I send text messages on a plain numeric keypad; no fancy QWERTY keyboard for me. And I never fail to take the time to write out each word and use punctuation. The marginal cost of doing so is about 20% of whatever time you'd spend writing unreadable gibberish that sounds like a hyperactive tween emailing her friends about Twilight. And for people who have newfangled phones with keyboards it can't take any additional effort at all to write like a literate English speaker. Argue all you want – there is no justification for this level of stupidity. Unless one's typing skills are 4 WPM, it simply does not take any more time to type "will continue to see changes" in place of "will cont 2 c chnges."

Look again at Palin's message. When did it become acceptable to communicate like this? What kind of idiot would make such a thing public? Maybe other public figures avoid being this blatantly retarded but it doesn't take much time in the Twitterverse to understand that "ur" is a perfectly acceptable substitute for "your," punctuation is optional and may be used at random, and numbers may substitute for words or portions thereof.

If you think this doesn't matter and I'm just being a crank, let's wait a few more years until we can see the results of long-term studies of the effects of text messaging among adolescents on their adult writing skills. We can barely write as it is, and now the world is being swept by a medium that encourages, if not openly demands, illiterate drivel as an acceptable substitute for English. I'm not the first person to point at technological developments and say "This is the harbinger of our doom! The end is nigh!" and the track record of people who so claim is not good. But the effect these new forms of communication are having on our ability to use the old ones correctly is real and significant.

Take a stand. Do your part, however small, to send the message (see what I did there?) that this kind of shit is not acceptable. Let your acquaintances know that typing something on a cell phone is not a blanket excuse to sound retarded. I don't care if you're texting, emailing, tweeting, blogging, writing a letter, or scratching an SOS into the side of a coconut shell, there. is. no. excuse. for talking like this. None. Our time is not so precious that the millisecond saved by replacing "for" with "4" can be justified. It takes just a few moments more to say something correctly than to say it incorrectly. And if something isn't worth a few seconds to say correctly I would question whether it is worth saying at all.

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60 Responses to “THE END OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION”

  1. johnnyboy Says:

    Tosh says: "Could it be she's becoming an over the hill, wanna be cool MILF? You know, age inappropriate clothes and a reckless adoption of college aged behavior and a desperate attempt to appeal to that age group."

    No, more like she's a classic textbook example of someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. This is typified by wearing the same clothes and hairstyle that was popular when you were young (long after they've gone out of style), being the loudest person in the room and trying to attract more attention than is normally warranted. NPDs usually have a classic meltdown before hitting 55. Tick tock, Sarah.

    As a long-time type setter (a what?) and graphic designer, I can state that classic typesetting (for almost any kind of copy put into commercial or public use) uses only one space after each sentence. Even though I normally add an additional one in my posts here and elsewhere out of habit from my junior high school typing class instructor making a daily example out of me.

    As for the use of "retarded", check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gM96e0yWjhI

  2. Peggy Says:

    Desargues, I taught a girl named Lynsie who is actually a really excellent writer. Same with Lilian (only one L? SCANDALOUS), Lencon (pronounced "Lincoln," "Linkin," or "Link on," whichever you prefer), and Lacie. DuShan (due shawn), Shawn, Dontae, and Ayeres (Ares) aren't very good, though. But Zach, Josh, and Katie are TERRIBLE. Cheynne, Shianne, and Shyan are all mediocre.

    Maybe before you freak out about changing spellings for people's names you should consider that while some people are interested in passing down the same names from generation to generation, other groups of people are more interested in creating new and unique names. I'm not saying that there isn't something wrong with naming someone Lemonjello, Oranjello, or Chlamydia, but it's hardly fair to then write them off as idiots based on a decision their parents made.

  3. Michael Says:

    Why does the public continue to give Sarah Palin a platform. Everytime you respond to her inane writings and retarded speeches she gains ground in the media's freak show.

    She can only thrive on attention. Ignore her. She will eventually go away.

  4. Mac Says:

    Ed?

  5. Desargues Says:

    Peggy: I absolutely had not the slightest intention to blame the poor kids for their parent's poor choice of name-spelling. Maybe I didn't make myself clear. I lay the blame entirely at their parents' door.

    As to the desire to be innovative with your child's name, parents shoudl consider a few factors:
    1 Attempts at innovation often backfire. Then the victim of their linguistic ricochet, the poor child, will have to endure a lifetime of jeers, contempt, and pity. Parents should practice innovation on themselves; when it goes bad, their children will be looked at as the offspring of dumbasses.
    2 In general, only those should try to innovate who have it on good authority that they're good at coming up with cool new ideas. I suspect someone whose best attempt is Linsie, Shianne, or Kinzie is not good at innovatin'. S/he's probably a mediocre redneck who should sit the fuck down and cease tryin' to be all innovative and shit. God has not seen fit to bestow the gift of creativeness upon their hillbilly asses. To suppose otherwise is to commit the sin of pride.

  6. Desargues Says:

    There are two spelling mistakes in the post above. I acknowledge them, and express contrition. I'm an impatient typer.

  7. Prudence Says:

    Ed, im forealz asking u out, k? Txt me bck if u r dwn. LOL!

    PS– Liz, I jest.

  8. grendelkhan Says:

    Comrade PhysioProf: If you [double-space after each sentence] while using anything other than a typewriter or a fixed-width typeface (such as Courier), you are a fucking imbecile.

    See, this bugged me at first when I was learning TeX and the TeXbook said that I had to manually specify end-of-sentence spacing or normal spacing in certain places… or that I could just disable variable after-period spacing with \frenchspacing, but on the other hand, I'm not smarter than Donald Knuth, which means that there's probably a very good reason why sentences have a little bit of extra space between them.

    I suppose, being a dorky purist about typography, that becoming a dorky purist about written English was inevitable. Damn it, I hated it ten years ago, when it was called "AIMspeak". But it's a question of attitude rather than technology; I speak in complete sentences over the instant messenger, and some folks manage to do the same for Twitter. If teachers didn't accept work written in twitspeak, perhaps it wouldn't be considered an acceptable dialect of written English.

  9. Doc Preacher Says:

    Chuck Chuck Chuck Chuck Chuckles buddy, you need to engage in a bit more popular discourse to avoid seeming socially retarded…

  10. fuzzbuzz215 Says:

    goddamn i love you. i can hear you screaming in your head as you typed this. weird? yes. still true? yep.