Category : words

C Me? I C U

In the third grade, I won a spelling bee. My prize was a shiny new green pencil and a pristine pink eraser, wrapped together with an oft-used rubber band (we called them “elastics”).

I have no recollection of the words I spelled, but I checked what today’s third graders are spelling. Some examples:






There was no way Mrs. Johnson could have known how much the spelling of these words would change in a few decades. I feel like turning back my pencil and eraser.

In the 18th century, Benjamin Franklin proposed a new, phonetic alphabet (what didn’t the man take an interest in?) His alphabet consisted of all the letters we’re familiar with, except there was no c, j, q, w, x, or y, on the grounds that they were redundant; and there were six additional letters, such as th, to provide for sounds that needed representation.

There wasn’t much interest in his proposal, even though he had the means to commission a foundry to prepare type for the new letters.

I wonder what he or Mrs. Johnson would think of “spelling” in today’s world of texters? I don’t recall a formal proposal or RFPs for new type foundries, but there’s no question that we have a more phonetic approach to spelling, much as he’d recommended:

enough –> nuf

thought –> thot

difference –> diff

easy –> EZ

photograph –> foto, or pic

Will improved technology (better ergonomics for finger/keyboard interaction, e.g.) take us back to enough, thought, difference . . . ?

It’s not so simple. Here are some examples from a list of 1400 abbreviations I found for texting and chatting on line.

TMI means  too much information

411 means information

POS means parent over shoulder

And more Netlingo:

**// means wink, wink, nudge

*$ means Starbucks

Even if you use only the most common acronyms (LOL, BFF, ROFL), I’ll bet you don’t write

I won’t be late; I’ll see you soon, but rather Not L8; CU soon.

Or some variation.

It seems to me that technology is driving this “evolution” of language, starting with spelling and grammar. Has it always been that way – technology as the tool of change?

Do you text? How’s your spelling?

Is anything the same as it was in third grade?