language change and slang

#followfriday anyone?

© Jamie Lee - Fotolia.comOr perhaps #teachertuesday? Or even #be_nice_wednesday?

Does anyone know what on earth I’m on about? I’ll be honest, I’m struggling. But slowly, gradually …, I think I’m getting there.

Whilst spending an inordinate amount of time on Twitter the other evening, I have to admit to bamboozling my poor fiancée. For those of us that aren’t in front of a screen 24/7, it does make pretty bizarre reading. (Incidentally – there’s a great article on how screens are taking over our lives by Charlie Brooker in The Guardian a couple of weeks ago – here it is again if you missed it).


Bewildering. What’s Icelandfield? (A farm on the outskirts of Reykjavik perhaps?) Tweetdeck? To the untrained eye, it’s all a bit messy.

But let’s rewind a bit, to mobile phones, where the art of cramming-as-much-information-into-a-solitary-text-message really took off.

Being something of a pedant, I’m embarrassed to admit I try my utmost to refrain from using text speak in texts. Unless the length of the text is so long as to set me back a further 11 pence, then shortening to to 2 is quite simply unacceptable.

And predictive text? Well that’s a laugh. If you’ve grown up anywhere even slightly rural, you simply find you have to teach the darn phone new items of geographic vocabulary. It fails to recognise such vital landmarks as Kingussie or Braemar.

And then there’s the occasional text which throws you completely. Thanks to the distribution of letters, the T9 dictionary can cough up some unlikely sentences. My mother is particularly adept at predictive text, but the message is very often lost, thus rendering predictive text useless. ‘Ill call tom back good late. Nun’ is a case in point.

So what of Twitter? Some call it a fad, but hasn’t it already been with us too long for that? I’m coming round. Once a skeptic, I am slowly starting to see the advantages of the tool: ideal for teachers, as they can swap ideas easily, and share new, free, online tools. It’s a little tricky knowing quite when the optimal time to tweet might be, and – maybe it’s just me – but there’s that nagging ‘withdrawal symptom’ feeling any time you’re not logged in …

For passing on useful titbits, it’s great. For snappy one-liners, it can also brighten up the day. Take, for example, this little gem from ‘thepeoplegeek’:
Cranked up the treadmill to MAX for 15 minutes. When I finally took a break my roller skates were hot to the touch.

To those of you who haven’t already tried it out, I’d definitely recommend a gander. If only to discover what the perplexing snippets, at the head of this blog piece, actually mean (although ‘reciprocal linking’ has a lot to do with it …).

If you do decide to hang around, you can follow us too:
Macmillan Online Dictionary

Finn Kirkland

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Finn Kirkland


  • I signed up to find out what all the fuss was about – and after some evangelising from other English Language teachers – but have now deleted my twitter account. I just don’t get it.

    It’s not as simple as a text message, it’s not as developed as a blog post and it’s not as fun as Facebook. Am I missing something?

  • For those Facebook Natives, the appeal of Twitter diminished somewhat when the ‘big change’ came in the FB interface. The advent of the new Twitter-Style status update had pretty much made the standard use of Twitter redundant (assuming most of your online pals already have Facebook).

    Now you can blissfully update your friends (fake and real) about your (often exaggerated) adventures in your Facebook status (aka Face Brag). You don’t even have to limit your expression to a few measley characters – and let’s face it, if you live the kind of laugh-in-the-face-of-phrasal-verbs lifestyle that many of us enjoy, who could attempt to dazzle their mates with only 140 characters?

    Tolstoy must be spinning.

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