SMS shortforms

Discussion in 'English Only' started by timebomb, Jun 4, 2006.

  1. timebomb

    timebomb Senior Member

    Singapore, English
    Hi, folks,

    I don't know if it has already crept into your language but over here in Singapore, SMS shortforms have become the bane of teachers and lovers of the English language. SMS stands for "short message servicing". It's when you send a message to another person using your handphone. Often, people use non-standard shortforms in such messages, for instance, "u" for "you", "ur" for "your" or "2mrw" for "tomorrow".

    In Singapore, the situation has become so bad people use SMS shortforms in office memos, emails and posts in forums similar to this one. In schools, teachers lament about the sharp drop in the standard of English compositions. In certain instances, the essays or messages are peppered with so many such shortforms it's hard to understand what the writer is saying.

    "I c u r stoopid" is my favourite response to such writing.

    A friend told me that the correct word to describe SMS shortforms is "ellipsis". I checked and it says there that an "ellipsis" is a "suppression or omission of parts of words or sentences". So I suppose my friend is right. But do you have a better word to describe "SMS shortforms"?
  2. Crimea New Member

    English, Australia
    hmm .... one word only? How about


    or perhaps


    (ok, sorry, that was an acronym .... meaning "Inability To Spell")

    Pardon my directness, but it seems I am too old for SMS

  3. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This is not entirely laziness.
    The limits on message length in SMS, and the constraints of the phone keypad before predictive text made text abbreviations extremely useful. Add to that their novelty value and appeal as an in-language - and we are where we are.

    These shortforms have also been used extensively in internet chat forums and even appear here from time to time before new members realise (or are reminded) that:

    WR Rule #22 - Except as a topic of discussion, chatspeak and SMS style are not acceptable. Members must do their best to write using standard language forms. <<This includes using capital letters where appropriate.>>

    It's day may come, but not yet, here:)
  4. suzi br

    suzi br Senior Member

    English / England
    I don't think that SMS is more lazy than any other abbreviation or fashion in language use. Do you still say omnibus and brassiere, Crimea?

    This is not a new debate either, people have been disgruntled about new fashions in language for as far back as you can go in written archives.

    Some of the things the old-guard complain about are just temporary and fade into oblivion; some become mainstream so that the next generation have no idea that there was ever a fuss about them.

    As for your question about what to call txt spk - there are different classifications according to the type:

    "txt spk" is an example of elision - as the vowels have been dropped but the basic spelling shape is not changed (note elision is only spelt with one "l") elision usually happens when sounds are dropped at the beginning or end of words, and is usually a spoken phenomonenon - but the word has been turned to use here for written forms.

    "c u l8r" is often classed as alpha-numeric spelling as it relies partially on the phonetics of these symbols in the alphabet (and numbers) sounded out in full

    "c u l8r" can also be classed as ellipsis because part of the full sentence could be said to be missing (I will .... c u l8r) Ellipisis of pronouns is rapidly becoming very common in many types of communication.

    LOL and brb are examples of initialisms since each letter stands for a whole word - they are not phonetic (so not alphanumeric splling).

    You could also call LOL an acronym because it spells a word which can be pronounced. (most initialisms are NOT acronyms - other well known ones are NATO and NASA which are used so often as words that people may forget the individual bits that the initials stand for)
  5. maxiogee Banned

    And plugging my neologism, I created the word apronym for particularly apposite acronyms, as in
    CASTANETSClacky And Staccato, These Are No-longer Exclusive To Spain
  6. suzi br

    suzi br Senior Member

    English / England
    And this is where one of those "rolly-eye" icons would be so useful. Of course this site is so polite that this is not one of the smileys on offer.

    btw - my students were delighted to find that ICON is a pretty straight lift from ancient Greek for picture, which justs adds to their delight on how the language evolves to meet new needs.
  7. suzi br

    suzi br Senior Member

    English / England
    And there - I hesitated to write "btw" (by the way) but wouldn't hesitate to write "ps" -

    I predict that "btw" will become integrated to mainstream because it is a useful little thing!
  8. TravisD

    TravisD New Member

    English Ohio, U.S.A.
    Language is about communication. There is nothing sacred about it, so I get tired of hearing about the "degeneration" of language. Of course, one must know their intended audience and recognize appropriate ways to convey meaning. It IS stupid to use coloquialisms, obscure idioms, shortforms etc. in a learning or business environment where the intended audience may or may not be familiar with them. But this isn't a degeneration of language. It's part of the continuous evolution of communication that has been going on since the beginning. I doubt the kids that are dumb enough to use shortforms in their English class compositions ever wrote to a very high standard anyways. Any English teacher worth anything should make an effort to keep abreast of new developments. It's the same in every field. Mark the idiots for spelling errors, incomplete sentences, etc. and go on with your life. As for businesses, maybe an essay requirement for new-hires could help. This isn't a big deal. It's actually pretty interesting.
    btw, I agree with suzi. most of this stuff will eventually fade, and a few new entries will make it into dictionaries.
  9. maxiogee Banned

    Spot on, TravisD.
    I often wonder about what hasn't made it into English in the past.
    There must be words which British troops picked up abroad and which were brought back, but never found acceptance.
    There must also be words which we never see - think of all the negatives which don't have positives… what happened to gruntle? Surely for someone to be understood when they declared themselves to be disgruntled, the listener must have known what gruntle meant.

    So my approach to novelty is to resist it, particularly when it seems to be replacing good words, and to resist the robbery of existing meanings but when the inevitable happens, accept it. Be not concerned about the appearance in dictionaries of freaky neologisms. Dictionaries are a money-making concern. Imagine a publisher who declared that you could keep that ten-year-old dictionary, there was nothing worthwhile missing from it. No, every year or two we see headlines in the papers telling us that "hjdgvbfgijlvch" has made it into the latest version of some revered and respected reference work as it is the latest in phrase among a certain set and has even been printed in The Daily Telegraph! Three years later it has vanished.

    The greatest thing about English is that it has soooo many words.
    The second greatest thing about it is that, because it has soooo many, we don't need to use ones we don't like.
    The third greatest thing about it is a Thesaurus!
  10. emma42 Senior Member

    North East USA
    British English
    I agree with you, TravisD, except for the one point about school pupils knowing not to use shortforms in English class. Unfortunately, lots of them don't know and actually think that some SMS is standard English. Fair enough, "all" the teacher has to do is to point out the difference and tell them that standard English is what s/he wants in their compositions, but teachers have enough to do already, and it's annoying!
  11. Ada.. Member

    The south of Spain
    Español- Andalucia, España
    Hi you all!
    This is a topic I am very interested in, it also occurs in my language and there are somke things that realy annoy me but at the end, from my point of view it is something to do with the adaptation to new communication necessities; one interesting thing is that it merges from the necessities impossed by new media. Some non-prescriptive grammarians are starting to study it as a new knind of register, but little research has allready been made on the recent field of study. Definitely, mastering a language is equivalent to be able to change your register depending on the situation and mould it accordingly to the function it is to fulfill... is it what we speak about when we speak about the evolution of a language? as we like it or not, this is the way it happens!
  12. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    I think much of it may be low colloquial register, but for SMS, it crosses the usual situational and social lines that dictate register. A banker is as apt to use some SMS terms as an adolescent chatting with friends.
  13. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I know many people who extensively use shortforms in SMS and e-mail communications.

    They never use them when applying for grants, publicising their services, or writing client reports.
  14. maxiogee Banned

    But I would ask, how many texters use the limit? Most text messages appear to be extremely short. (A quick poll among a mixed age-group of 10 people - highly unscientific!)
  15. Tatzingo

    Tatzingo Senior Member

    Where on Earth??
    English, UK

    I'm in my mid-twenties so put me in whichever age group you will, Mr Researcher. The length of a text message is the same length as a piece of string. I often send texts that consist of 2/3 sentences, but i'm just as likely to send a text that uses up the character limit (on most networks, standardised as 144 characters/spaces). If you never used abbreviations, you wouldn't realistically get more than about 5 short sentences in there... Sometimes, i even send multiple double length messages (you for for them as 2 separate messages/texts) - to convey v. important ideas. However, relatively speaking, I don't text that often, i know people who go through hundreds each month...


    Edit. Rewording/addition of minor points.

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