Modern communication technology is a wonderful thing in so many ways.
It's revolutionised how we interact with one another to such an extent that we can expect to be connected with anyone, virtually anywhere on the planet in just a matter of seconds. Information is spread instantly via internet, mobile phone and social networks. All it takes is for one person to tweet a startling revelation and within minutes the world is being simultaneously startled.
But for all its wonderful advantages, there is one depressing downside to the super-speed century and that is the dire effect it is having on our language. Text-speak, where polysyllabic words are abbreviated and phrases are condensed to easy-to-type acronyms is becoming the preferred parlance for an entire generation. Shakespeare must be turning in his grave like a whirling Dervish.
Here's an example I came across which I think perfectly epitomises this worrying trend in the evolution of our mother tongue.
My sister recently asked her teenage daughter to turn off the telly and start her homework.
“Oh, mum! Ceebs!” was the reply.
I was curious to find out what this strange word meant. It took some explaining. Now, bear with me and I will attempt to decipher it for you.
Remember the good old days when kids didn't dare be rude to their parents? In those days, after a similar instruction, one might have replied “Do I really have to?” or, if they were feeling particulary bold “I can't be bothered”.
Well, teenagers who can't be bothered with common courtesy these days will reply with the modern equivalent : “I can't be a**ed.”
This phrase, in turn, then became abbreviated via text-speak to the initials “CBA”
So, to recap for a moment, a text conversation between two school friends might go something like this: “Hv u done yr hmwrk yt?” “Nah, CBA. lol”
But eventually — and inevitably — the acronym itself became too long-winded for our speedy teenage abbreviators. And so, the word “ceebs” was born. After all, why use a consonant, consonant, vowel, when a single syllable will do?
Another more common term which is used by lazy scribes everywhere is the acronym “LOL”.
In the good old days, when people used to write letters to each other, this often stood for “lots of love”. The modern usage, usually written as “lol” means “laugh out loud” and is a way of indicating that what you just texted was meant to be funny.
This annoys me no end. In fact, I'm proud to say that in over a decade of texts and emails I have never lol'd once.
It's so commonly used that the “word” has even entered the English Dictionary. In fact “Lolling” is now a word in itself. As in “I was lolling my head off at that joke” (roughly translates back to “I was laughing-out-loud-ing my head off at that joke) Confused? You will be.
It's not just the young ‘uns who are to blame either for this tragic breakdown of communications. It seems anyone who's ever put finger to keypad is turning lazier and lazier as each dy gs by.
I got an email earlier in the week that read thus: “Hi F Hws u? Lng tm no C. Do u wanna get 2gthr ovr the holz 4 a drnk & cht? Txt me asap lol”
It was from my friend who's a modern language teacher, no less. I was tempted to reply “Could you translate that into English for me please?” but I have a feeling the reply would have been “ceebs”.