Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Showing my age with words

Below, highlights of a exchange with a 24 year old corporate communications professional I'll call "Shelly", whom I mentor. Her messages are in italics. She of course is texting; I'm e-mailing from my laptop.

Got doc, thx4 reaching out!!!!

Did not reach out; contacted you, wrote, dropped by. Arms still at sides metaphorically and literally.

K. Else? To be honest need yr help.

To be honest with you adds nothing to what you're saying. If you tell me you're being honest, I'll wonder why you need to reassure me.

Lunch Jen & I? U cld use break.

Jen and ME. Me, me, me, me, me.

LMFAO! boomers into yrselves!  Old ppl!!! 

We did go for lunch–and laughed about the three-generation workplace. Nearly forty years between us and I'm feeling every one. 

Do you show your age (or generation, at least) when you communicate? I still can't bring myself to say 'sick' instead of 'cool' and use 'awesome' only when referring to natural wonders of the world or the realm of spirit.

37 comments:

Vivienne said...

I'm SO with you on this - I may be the last person alive who does NOT end sentences with prepositions! And I'm still writing thank you notes for interviews on paper; I'm sure that immediately brands me as way too "un-hip" for the workplace! Nonetheless, I intend to hold my ground on this; words have precise meanings and are intended for precise situations. Failure to use them properly reflect sloppy thinking.

linda said...

I'm with you and Vivienne. At 49, I feel more like 70 in the workforce.
-linda,ny

une femme said...

How's this for old: I don't text.

We've had to offer workshops at my company on how to write actual emails, which include a section on not using "text speak" (r u there?) in business emails.

The "me/I" thing makes me crazy too.

I think that often when people in our age group try to "adopt the lingo" it just comes across as trying too hard and accentuates the age differences even more.

Northmoon said...

Glad to hear there's someone else who doesn't text!

I didn't even realize my corporate Blackberry could receive text messages until a 30 something friend sent me one.

My particular peeve with the younger generation is the misuse of 'button down' for button front shirts. Button down refers to a particular collar detail people, not all shirts!

LPC said...

Luckily my children take pity on me and use normal English to say hello:).

Rubiatonta said...

I've always talked "like an old person." As an English instructor and an editor, I'd never have gotten anywhere professionally if I couldn't manipulate the language. And don't get me started on the me/I thing. How we let people graduate from high school without teaching them any grammar at all is beyond me. (Froth, rant.)

On the other hand, there is something to be said for the ability to "code-switch" given the appropriate context. It's certainly fun to throw "awesomesauce" into the conversation with my nearly 9 year-old nevvie. I wouldn't use it at a client meeting, though.

Jane W. said...

I text, but use full sentences and correct punctuation--as do all of my 40+ friends.

On the other hand, my 8-year-old daughter wrote "H.E." to denote "Happy Easter" on a card to her grandparents. Where did that come from? She doesn't have a phone!

SewingLibrarian said...

I don't like incorrect pronoun use, but what bothers me even more is the use of "it's" for "its". That mistake drives me crazy.

Marguerite said...

I've always thought those who don't use their cell phones for speaking have about the same technology as those who received telegrams back in the day. It's such a step back in my mind! I do text, but usually with someone who will only respond to texting. Let us stand firm on sloppy writing skills.

Susan Tiner said...

You know, I've heard that remark before, about boomers being into themselves.

I tend to use honestly and frankly in sentences -- will reconsider.

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

Oh I am so relating to this as I do not text.
I do not have the IPhone that the rest of my family own and use my cell infrequently!

We have students at school that text during class to other students in the classroom next to theirs...it has become a very big issue at school.

I wonder what effect this will have on the English language in the future.

Marsha said...

Yes, I do show my age when I communicate. People pay me for this ability, especially younger people who are aware that they cannot express themselves in a clear and literate manner (or who have been told that they need help doing so, often by professors or employers).

I have been known to ignore my daughter's email requests when they are not written in standard English.

And no, I do not text. It is quite wonderful to know that I needn't respond immediately to most communications from others because my friends and clients are aware of my idiosyncrasy.

Mary said...

You nailed it, sistah! Seriously, another one of my favorites is "let's dialogue about this". Arghhh!

Lark said...

I'm in my mid-thirties - but I find text-speak very dull except when used for comic effect. Especially now that phones are fairly sophisticated, it really isn't more effort to text "Thanks, that sounds wonderful! See you there" than to text "kthx, l8r" Admittedly, we have a whole series of long-standing text-speak jokes at our house - "Jerusalem" rewritten as text messages, tl;dr, that sort of thing. I did once accidentally greet a work colleague with "o hai" because that's one of my jokes with my friends.

Fritinancy said...

Coincidentally, Urban Dictionary's word of the day for June 22 is "aarping": "When an elderly person, such as your grandfather, complains incessantly about nothing."
http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=aarping&defid=3313933

For those of you not familiar with AARP, it's the entity formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons.

ming said...

I text - but don't use text speech. My pet peeve is when people use between when they should use among.

Jill Ann said...

I text a lot, mostly to my teenagers. It's really useful; but we all use proper grammar and do not abbreviate. I am proud to say that they both take after me in their slightly annoying, superior, tendency to be what we call "grammar Nazis." I am also proud that they use "like" and "you know" very infrequently compared to their friends. (Or is it "compared with?" I didn't say I was perfect!)

Duchesse said...

Vivienne: re your thank you notes, Canada Post is on strike and some commenters say it makes no difference to them. I still like sending and receiving hand-written notes.

Linda- Not sure where the age divide is, but definitely below 49!

une femme: I don;t text and hardly anyone has my cell phone number, so I don;t get many, either.

Northmoon: Yes, somehow button-down transmigrated. I wonder if they would call the kind you mean button-down button downs?"

LPC: Mine still call me Dude sometimes, enjoying baiting me.

Rubi: "Awesomesauce" is new for me, I just caught on to "whatev".

Jane W. H.E.? Guess M.C. is next, and I have received an H.B.

SewingLibrarian: I see that almost daily.

Marguerite: As one who actually remembers and sent telegrams, you paid by the word. They have all the letters available and fairly cheap data plans. It's just finding shortcuts, with all the joy and peril that confers.

Susan Tiner: "Honestly" and "frankly", as well as the longer "to be honest with you" is just filler language, with which we buy time to think. It's not a grammar issue, just a speech habit.

materfamilias said...

I find texting really useful, but not because I rely on abbreviated and, um, creative?, language. I find it tough to misspell, even in the interest of supposed brevity.

But I was very interested in working through David Crystal's book, Txtng: The Gr8 Db8, with some of my classes last year. . . there are brilliant, brilliant examples of texting wordplay. Also just read Robert McCrum's Globish and now am reading Bill Bryson's Mother Tongue. All show a language in constant evolution.

But I think you're talking about something more problematic than poor spelling and banal communication -- it's a failure to be attuned to audience. MacLuhan was right -- the medium is the message, so attention should be paid to whether the medium suits the audience we're aiming at. That includes such etiquette as salutations, titles, spelling, etc., etc.

Duchesse said...

HOstess: My teacher and prof friends are either losing their minds with the amount of texting or have resigned themselves to competing with the devices. The older they are, they less they are willing to concede their classroom to them. One demands that Blackberries etc. be checked with him till after class.

Marsha: I have been paid for it too, and wonder if you too have had the experience of having your grammar edited back to an incorrect usage by a young person who is sure he is correct because he and all his friends say it. A friend recently showed me her new resumé, developed with her by an outplacement firm. How about adding "value proposition" and "sustainable advantage"?


Fritinancy: Ours is Canadian Association of Retired Persons: CARP.
Dadgummit, I love that.

ming: Yes! And "less" instead of "fewer".

Lark: Hope I don't sound humourless, we need that too. O hai!

Jill Ann: I am thrilled by a well-spoken young person. Do your children use "I hope that..." instead of "hopefully"?

Mine know the correct (old-timer's) form but have defaulted to the vernacular.

Tiffany said...

Incorrect use of 'me/I' drives me nuts. I'm also a stickler for using 'fewer' where appropriate, but sometimes I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle.

Like several other commenters, I do text, but I don't use any shortcuts. I get teased about it by my offspring and some of my Gen Y clients, but I don't care.

And I make my children write proper thank-you notes for gifts. They hate me.

Duchesse said...

materfamilias: I am aware of the changes in language, not from these books but from the wonderful language columns (now discontinued) in the New York Times. I enjoy slang, wordplay and wit in any form. I'm surprised, though, that I had to explain to young business person why I removed "this sucks" from his business communication.

Tiffany: If I don't get a thank-you note, on the next occasion, a gift does not happen. E-mail is OK if the person is traveling, or a known
wild child, but I much prefer the effort of a handwritten note. Yes, I am the proper aunt in many respects.

wendelah1 said...

I didn't learn how to text until my father-in-law had a stroke and I had to communicate with his grandchildren. I quickly learned that while many young people never answer their phones, they will respond to text messages.

Jocelyn said...

I'm really in agreement with you on the deterioration of grammar skills. It was decided some radical teachers that some people speak different dialects of English and that there is no such thing as bad grammar, just different dialects. But that is no excuse for not teaching a dialect accepted in business and academe so that young people have yet another tool for clear communication. It is an excuse which enables them to omit teaching a form of English with which they themselves are uncomfortable.

What I hate to see is the preposition taking the place of a past participle as in:

"He should of known..." (should have). Also could of, would of may of and so on.

and the intrusive participle in:

"If he had've (had have) known..."

And as for the apostrophe...! Let's just say that I advise people that it's safer to forget about it; at least they'll be right some of the time.

Jocelyn said...

I'm really in agreement with you on the deterioration of grammar skills. It was decided some radical teachers that some people speak different dialects of English and that there is no such thing as bad grammar, just different dialects. But that is no excuse for not teaching a dialect accepted in business and academe so that young people have yet another tool for clear communication. It is an excuse which enables them to omit teaching a form of English with which they themselves are uncomfortable.

What I hate to see is the preposition taking the place of a past participle as in:

"He should of known..." (should have). Also could of, would of may of and so on.

and the intrusive participle in:

"If he had've (had have) known..."

And as for the apostrophe...! Let's just say that I advise people that it's safer to forget about it; at least they'll be right some of the time.

Jocelyn said...

I'm really in agreement with you on the deterioration of grammar skills. It was decided by radical teachers that some people speak different dialects of English and that there is no such thing as bad grammar, just different dialects. But that is no excuse for not teaching a dialect accepted in business and academe so that young people have a tool for clear communication. It is an excuse which enables teachers to omit teaching a form of English with which they themselves are uncomfortable or of which they are just plain ignorant.

What I hate to see is the preposition taking the place of a past participle as in:

"He should of known..." (should have). Also could of, would of may of and so on.

and the intrusive participle in:

"If he had've (had have) known..."

And as for the apostrophe...! Let's just say that I advise people that it's safer to forget about it; at least they'll be right some of the time.

And then I hate to see a verb that's been related to something plural in a sentence which is not in fact the subject of that sentence. Usually the verb is related to the nearest noun not to the subject.

Angel Jem said...

Love the conversation! I'm (only) 43 and cannot bring myself to abbreviate or not use punctuation when I text and only occasionally use DH and other abbreviations. But I have been called 'sick' in a good way..... I know language is not static and that usage and idiom move on, but does it have to be quite so fast?

Duchesse said...

wendelah1: Mine never check their voice mail but live by the text message.

Jocelyn: We all pick out spots, one of mine is "irregardless".

Angel Jem: It seems fast to every generation. My father fought against "cool" as a term of approbation and lost.

Marsha said...

Duchesse, I have had the experience of correcting someone's grammar, only to have them argue with me after consulting a more ignorant person. I have chosen to view this as an opportunity to educate, and since I am paid by the hour, it stings less that way - staying sweet when being second-guessed is another matter, though, and something I continue to attempt.

Regarding texting itself, I am reminded of the relief I felt when my daughter informed me that she very, very seldom actually speak on her cell phone - usually only to me and to one other person she loves; she texts everyone else. I was pleased because I am telling myself that she thereby avoids the health hazards of placing a cell phone so close to her brain and eyes. I haven't explored this deeply because I am enjoying this belief, and don't want to explode it just yet.

lagatta à montréal said...

I do hope I'll never need a portable phone - I rely on a laptop when travelling.

By the way, Vivienne, it is perfectly correct in English to end sentences with prepositions. You can easily google this, and find such reliable sources as oxford.com . The avoidance of this Germanic sentence structure, normal in English as in other West Germanic languages, stems from the efforts of Latinist grammarians.

What English does tend to avoid is long sequences of words between a noun and its related preposition in a separable phrasal verb - as is common in German.

Jocelyn, all the radical teachers I have known were sticklers about language (not necessarily English, often French or Italian) - sociolinguistics is quite different from knowledge of standard usage.

I am another of the "born old" set in this respect, though a fervent rebel in others.

Duchesse said...

lagatta: There's adifference in what is accepted in some regions and for specific audiences, as well as verbal and written English.

I might say "That's the funniest thing I could think of" in everyday, vernacular English, but would re-cast the sentence if writing a formal document to avoid the stiff, correct usage ("the funniest thing of which I could think". I'd choose instead to avoid that pesky preposition: "I could not think of anything funnier."

There are probably better revisions, too. I regularly consult grammar texts but am hardly an expert.

Marsha: I ended up telling him, "If you want it to go out this way, let's put your name on it, not mine." That is when he had some inkling that he might check the usage further than his next cubicle.

Terri said...

I've had students turn in formal college papers full of text speak. I have to literally explain why certain phrases are offensive to certain audience. Eg, you suck or that "pisses me off."

Duchesse said...

Terri: I believe it; that could test your patience.

Maggie said...

Sometimes the topic, well change that, most times this topic is just plain funny. My 23 year old godson asked me point blank, "Are you afraid of technology?" "No", I replied, "I'm just afraid of constant communication." Instant messages leave no time for much thought. And will anyone in the future be able to hold a letter in their hand written many years before by a loved one, no longer alive, and read the words again with a tear in their eye?

Duchesse said...

Maggie: Good point! When I moved, I sorted through years of cards and letters I'd saved. The few e-mails I'd printed simply did not have the resonance of the letters, despite the words. IMs of course gone immediately.

class factotum said...

When my friend's 29 year old daughter couldn't understand why it was not appropriate to call me "Dude," I told her she could call me by my name. And if that made her uncomfortable, she could call me "Mrs Honey."

Duchesse said...

class factotum: Twenty-nine, oh dear!
My sons called me "Dude" at 15 or 16 but have since reverted to Maman.