From Chaucer to Chatspeak

Both Nat and I have alway had a bit of a dislike for chatspeak and the over-use of 8 in text messages. We couldn’t help wanting to vomit when the word ‘Staycation’ entered the lexicon last summer. And more recently, sick bags at the ready for this one: ‘Advergame.’

But last month we went down to the British Library Evolving English exhibition, and it was pretty eye-opening. It turns out that actually, words have always had a mind of their own, since time immemorial.

At the exhibition you see how things have evolved so much from old english to present day. It makes you realise that it’s a bit silly to try and stop things from changing. Maybe years from now our English will seem as archaic and complicated to read to the chatspeakers of the future, just as middle English seems harder to read to us now?

And yet the need to try and preserve language has always been there. At the exhibition we learned that Jonathan Swift once called for a government-sponsored academy to issue rulings on the language – to try and regulate things from getting out of hands. We also, in our small way, tried to stop people making up dubious hybrid words like ‘Cafaurant.’ But it seems you can’t stop a language from evolving. And nor should you – like it or not.

More often than not, the reason words evolve is a response to cultural changes. Words come in and out of use as and when we need them. ‘Staycation’ happened because people were all out of work and couldn’t afford to fly anywhere.

Although, that said, this ‘adopt a word’ campaign by the Oxford University Press makes a lovely point, and is wonderfully executed (thanks to Will Awdry for spotting it).

Also in the exhibition was Norman Silver’s text poetry ‘Txt Commndmnts’. I can’t find it to link to, but it’s basically a poem in text speak, and it’s interesting but a little ugly looking. I don’t
know if a line of verse with the word gr8 in it could ever sound as lyrical as a sonnet, but that’s just me.
Another surprising thing of note was that ‘workplace jargon’ has always existed. Miners, masons etc, all had their own terminology that you wouldn’t be caught dead using out of hours. So I guess  Adland Bingo is really just a progression of that.

Finally, now that my name’s now officially infiltrated the language, I feel like it’s time to point something out, just in case anyone was wondering why I’m named after chatspeak… Just for the record, I’m not… I’ve been nicknamed Lol since 1987, when Lorelei was a bit of a mouthful, so my brother shortened it to the more manageable Lol. So, in this sense, the choice of nickname pre-dates the internet. I did not decide at any point to name myself after a comic interjection – just so you know! That’s all.

Thank you and happy easter,

Laughing out loud and A member or supporter of the Scottish National Party.


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