Friday, November 10, 2006

The Language War is about to heat up. New Zealand high school students will be allowed to used "text speak," the second language teenagers created to use in text messages, in their exams, as long as the answer demonstrates the required understanding of the subject matter.

A story headlined OK 2 use SMS lingo in exams even features two nifty examples: "We shal fite dem on d beaches" (Sir Winston Churchill) and "2b or nt 2b" (Shakespeare's Hamlet).

Predictably, this has angered people who believe that the English language is a monolithic thing that does not change and youth should use proper English, and those who say that text speak is part of English's continued growth as a living language. Not 20 years ago, the word "gift" was only a noun. Slowly, it became a passive verb, i.e., "The principal was gifted with a new car." It still sounds stupid and uneducated to me, but it is in every newspaper at least once a week. If we can have those tortuously constructed sentences, why not the more elegantly simple "2b or not 2b?"

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