That’s 1337! Er, “leet.” Er, elite. Er, that’s good

I have a hard time with English here and there. Homonyms, synonyms, adverbial endings, antecedent agreements—there’s a lot to track. And even when afforded correction tools like spell checks (now built into browsers to flag words as you type…yikes!) and grammar scans, English can still be a bit of a beast.

Still, generally, most people do well. You could say we’re (in America) down to an eighth grade reading level (newspapers) and falling (Who reads newspapers anyway?), but, still, sentences generally flow and follow the general rules.

That said, I see and hear a lot from online users, kids and grammatical behavior in things like video games. One of the seeming modern rules of adaptive grammar is “if it’s used long enough, it becomes correct.” I say “seeming” because there are always the conservative linguists that claw and hold on to every scrap of proper language and the progressive linguists who just go with forward popular usage.

Famous cases of begrudgingly adopted words like “ain’t” are laughed off. “Oh yes! I remember that, ha ha ha! So silly.” And more benign trends of eschewing “archaic” (as progressives would say) spelling conventions like -ough for “u” sounds are commonplace—Drive “Thru” is one. Another is replacing -ight with “ite” as in: Late “Nite” and “Lite” Yogurt.

We see these so much, they don’t even phase us. Heck, at one time, contractions were regarded with similar resistances from conservatives and shrugs from progressives, and many use those liberally (although not in professional or academic writings).

American English seems to follow this sort of “if it’s how I speak, it’s how I write” trend. Moreover, “if it’s how I spell, it’s just the way it is.”

I was playing an online game—one involving thousands of people all running around doing their thing. I play two, primarily, one has a large American population and one does not. Not only do I enjoy the games themselves, but I find the study of those who play significantly fascinating. The European game is host to Germans, French, British, Slovakian, Russian, men from Cyprus, older, younger, soldiers, students—a host of interesting people with interesting views on life, language, politics…Anyway, the American-based one has scores fewer mature players—be it player age or general demeanor of Americans, I can’t say. Chat is always full of “You suck!” and “You’re gay!” lines, and, well the reason for the post.

In this one particular example, someone broadcasted to sell something in the game. Invariably, someone screamed out the equivalent of “That thing sucks! What a rip off!” and the kid responded with “Die! im youre worst night mare.”

As someone who sees a thousand grammatical massacres a day, I didn’t really flinch. What was interesting was a couple of other chaps started giving him sh*t for it, laughing at the “youre” and “night mare” bits. The kid/guy/whomever became defensive and started in about how “The internet doesn’t have any spell checks so who cares?” and “i can spell how i want.”

What’s interesting to me and the reason I’m scribbling all this down, is that he’s exactly right.

Any of you chat? I mean, with those little IM phones or devices? “Ur gr8!”, “I luv u.”, “Zomg! BFF! BRB, cya!” There’s a whole other language out there. And I’m not getting into one of those “Kids these days!” rants, I’m just pointing it out to those who don’t bother with that “kids stuff.” Well, friends, those kids are going to become tomorrows young adults and so on. These linguistic trends are going to continue.

Tangent: Salmons’ view of generational maturation

When a generation matures, it’s not so much that they give up all of the popular social cultural bits that had them labeled as “silly” by the older generation, it’s just that the even younger generation comes up with different and therefore “silly” popular social cultural bits that the newly mature generation pins on them. Thus, there are no concrete “older” or “younger” ways of thinking, as in you grow “in to” or “out of” a mindset, there’s just the ideas and environments that a certain group grows up in and, thus, shapes its thought processes and demeanors. The children of the ’60s are no less children of the ’60s because they are “older.” They still attack the world with most of the same ideas and processes, influenced by their time.

It might be said that as a group grows older, they become more “conservative” when family, houses, mortgages, etc., creep into the picture. And that’s partially true, giving rise to the notion that you get “old” while the “young” people stay “silly.” But this isn’t the case when history comes into play.

Look at the American political left and right from the past—say, 50 years. The “liberals” of the 1950, in their general regard for economic, social, political and nationalist agendas, would be staunch conservatives by today’s political standards. I’m not saying one is right or one is wrong. I’m just pointing out that “older” and “younger” is relative to the accusing generation’s immediate progeny or predecessors. Regardless of age or disposition, there is an external social momentum that carries things on, beyond how crazy the “kids” are.

/end tangent

Regardless of how we rail and rage against the states of things, certain aspects of our culture will grow and evolve. Thus, my realization that American English is going to continue its trend.

So, since there is a river before us, and it is flowing in a particular way, where will it lead?

We’ve already traversed the simple stuff—Nite, Lite, double negatives. Now let’s get in to real grammatical deconstruction.

The Future of American English

Someone commented on a Youtube video about a ferret flipping out after eating a pepper:

lol that not nice expecially becaust you tryed to feed it to it again and that ferret must have been thursty lol

On someone’s myspace page:

i MiGhT bE a [[Gg]] BuT i LoVe HoLLiStEr….YeAh Im DaT cHiCk DaT lUvZ HoLlisTEr&&*mY hOlLiStEr Iz So SoFt..lOl!*

After you are killed in a video game:

im s0 1337 taht i pwn ur @ss n00b!

On someone’s page after being laughed at:

Ya MeAn JuS plAyIn DatZ wAs FuNnI tHoOo..

The stage has been set. Small recent linguistic concessions, coupled with the general impotence of Postmodernism is allowing communication to change at a record pace. Sure, employers might require a certain level of communicative prowess, just like many still wear ties. Still, “proper” language and speech will unfortunately be regarded as one of those things Mom or “the boss” insists on, rather than a point of pride for an individual in the modern world. Too bad, really. Just as things were getting interesting. It would have been nice to know what the &^%$ people are saying.

###

About salemonz

Born in San Diego, Calif. Raised as a Navy Brat, I jumped ship and crossed over to the Army. Served as an enlisted journalist for a bunch of years, then helped the DoD figure out what the hell to do with social media. After the Army, now I drift down the river of life, trying not to be a jerk.

11 responses to “That’s 1337! Er, “leet.” Er, elite. Er, that’s good”

  1. feefeef says :

    The same thing is happening over here in England. “Text speak” is taking over, to the extent that what used to be abbreviations, used to save time and money, have now become ‘cool’, and kids don’t know what is and isn’t correct. It’s sad to see literacy levels falling, and fewer people every day caring about the bastardisation of our language.

  2. Joshua says :

    I know there’s no shortage of people decrying the state of language. I have no idea of how to stop it all. I don’t want to just “go with it,” but do you think there’s a way to reverse things? The more strongly the educated and well-read make a stand, the more I think it will further the rift. Soon, it’ll become some weird class struggle. The staunch versus the “freetexters” or some such.

  3. feefeef says :

    I don’t know. Like you say, on the one hand encouraging better education could create a rift, especially with teenagers rebelling against authority everywhere. However, sitting and letting it happen isn’t going to solve any problems either. It may just mean that the language develops and what we consider to be incorrect in time turns out to be normal. After all, the way we talk now would have been inconceivable half a century ago.

    Maybe that’s all this is: another development in our language. It’s annoying, and looks terrible to those of us who stick to the grammatical rules. Not all changes have been bad, I suppose, in hindsight.

  4. Felyne says :

    I like this one: http://boingboing.net/images/dictionary_cat-1.jpg Today you can make any noun a verb, just google it.

    “I’m in ur base killing ur d00ds”

  5. Joshua says :

    feefeef, you made a good point. We already speak a bastardized form of the language. Hrmmm.

    I wonder if technology will help things. I mean, as computers become vastly improved and take on more of our more mundane jobs/tasks. Maybe they’ll be able to “fix” our writing for us. Not that it wouldn’t keep us from being drooling morons, but at least we’ll have a pretty facade.

    Or, do you think there will be a backlash? A new way of rebelling? Will one generation see all the older people speaking “133t” and rebel by embracing the classics?

    When I say “Whaddup?” to my grand kids, will they roll their eyes and say “Honestly, grandfather, a dignified elder would use a proper sentence when greeting family.”?

    Grandpa blasting Eminem, little Johnny quietly listening to Bach.

    Ha! Good one, Fel, I love “I can has cheezburgers”! Which, I suppose, makes me a hypocrite when it comes to this language stuff.

  6. feefeef says :

    No, I don’t think that computers will help at all. Just look at MySpace, Facebook, and a hundred other sites popular with teenagers. Kids use their new form of the language to look cool to one another, to a much greater extent than if they hadn’t been able to communicate with one another so freely. At school, their teachers can guide them to a much greater extent.

    When I was growing up I was never tempted to use anything other than proper English, even among my peers. Sure, we had our own slang, but we used grammar correctly.

    (And perhaps liking “I Can Has Cheezburger” is systemic of all us language nuts: it’s a guilty pleasure of mine, too.

  7. Joshua says :

    Meh! You’re probably right, feef. Still, I don’t think I could hire someone who put “hax0rz” or “n00b” on her/his resume, to say nothing about the enthusiastic upper case/lower case shifts.

    And, I would think “I Can Has Cheezburger?” is only funny if that’s not how a person talks normally. So, we might not be so crazy after all!

  8. Felyne says :

    Damn, I had written an essay and it only posted the first little part of it. Well I was ranting, so it’s probably a good thing…

    Caturday! I had posted the “Im in ur base killing ur d00ds” with the alternate “I am within your base of operations, enacting fatal attacks upon your conscripts” as the ironic play. It’s just modern day slang, Jive, and each group has their own version of it…

    I went into a big rant about the medium in which the language is being spoken – I’m a prime example, wordology is my friend – I totally verb nouns, I add -ity or -ness to make a word to suit my purpose, my blog is just shocking – yet when I’m working it’s completely different. This is so casual, we’re chatting, you’re not gonna pull me up on spelling a werd wrong, as long as you know what I’m saying. As the guy said … ‘who cares’… I think that’s the most valid point. Who cares is entirely dependant on the medium (is medium even the right word?). With the speed of communication these days – you send ten emails in the space it would have taken to compose a letter – it’s interpreted as more of a conversation than a document and accordingly I think people are more forgiving with typos or grammatical errors. For me personally, if I see a typo in an email it’s no biggie, but if I get one in a written letter, I think that’s bad form. You wouldn’t correct someone over the phone for being grammatically incorrect, I guess email is viewed the same, it’s an electronic conversation rather than a documented correspondence.

    Internet killed the grammatical star.

  9. Felyne says :

    You know what is more alarming – peoples handwriting.

    We’ve just got a new guy onboard, and he’s handed me his details – and it looks like a 6 year old has written it – mind you he’s very cluely on the pc.

    Should we be more worried about legibility?

  10. Joshua says :

    I’m not one to be a poster child for neat handwriting. I’m a journalist, we get used to frantic scribbling in our note taking. Looking down at what I’m writing, it reminds me of a Pollock painting.

  11. Seth says :

    Maybe technology is bringing us full-circle, back to an oral society and the (current) signs of change: our cell phones, youtube (with video blogging/replies), video ichat, podcasts etc. require less attention to written rules. Or maybe it’s simply the accuracy for speed tradeoff of our text messages, email, comments, IM, etc. seeping into our other written work. Either is more clever than a one way conversation with the mind control box (or flatscreen).

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