During a discussion of students’ school performance, I brought up what I thought were salient points about what was expected back in the’50s as compared with today. What’s different? I mentioned that many public schools have dropped cursive writing.
What’s the big deal? The big deal is that cursive writing must have been invented to speed things up. Rather than composing each letter — and by necessity having to lift the pencil between each letter, as we do in printing — we link letters together by using cursive.
But it’s even more personal than that. My dad left us a Bible he used when he was 8, in 1911; the date, written cursively along with his signature, are great to behold. The gentle, flowing lines, varying in thickness as he pivoted the pen are impressive. Dad earned extra cash as a youngster in Wagon Mound by painting signs on buildings that still stand (the signs, if not the buildings).
On the menu today obviously are cell phones with a typing feature to allow the user to peck out a message. And what’s the usual message? It’s LOL, a phrase I won’t define here but instead suggest you ask any teen.
Meanwhile, I firmly believe that cell-phone messaging has led to a deterioration of the language.
Let me explain:
Cell phones are tiny; fingers are fat. Therefore, we often hit the wrong, adjoining, key and need to back up. Well nobody’s ever successfully backed up the key strokes without creating more damage to the misspelling.
Then we figure, “What the heck! If people can’t understand my letter, that’s their problem. I’m not gonna spend all day making corrections.” So we give in to the misspelling and write something fuzzy and confusing.
There’s another effect of this texting. In addition to settling for sloppy grammar, we try to reduce the inconvenience by shortening some words and using unheard of abbreviations, in hopes the receiver will figure it out. Did I explain above that I wouldn’t define LOL? Well, I’ve changed my mind. LOL stands for Laughing Out Loud. Is that all people do when they text? Laugh? Out loud?
Do LOL-ing texters agree that it’s cool to hold up traffic on Seventh and Mills long enough for them to make sure the other person really is Laughing Out Loud?
I belong to the camp that believes autos ought to contain a device that disables not only the audio feature of cell phones but the texting as well — and especially.
It’s true that talking on a cell phone while driving is dangerous. But texting — I assume we can agree — is much more so. The human eye wasn’t made to scan the surrounding territory then allow the texter to return to his or her LOL-ing, a process that makes the eyes switch from distant objects to a screen inches away.
We’ve heard and read about people who have been killed by plowing into the back of a semi while tacking the final LMAO to their text. This is where police can be justifiably vigilant. It’s easy to spot texters whose heads bob up and down, scanning traffic, then returning to the text message.
By reading a Grammarly item on the Internet recently, I came across a brilliant argument against all texting. In this case, the safety aspect becomes less important; instead, good grammar stands out. Here’s what happened:
A middle-aged, single man who tried out an online dating site, in hopes of meeting a woman he’d enjoy spending time with, later hesitated even to go on the first date.
Did something about the photo she attached turn him off? Was there something about her faith that he found incompatible with his? Was she a problem drinker or smoker?
None of the above.
What turned him off was the way his would-be texting date ended her missive: “I will see you THEIR.” Georgia Wells, the writer of the online item, said the date flopped mainly because of bad grammar.
Grammarly, a web site devoted to improving people’s use of language, reports that a man with two spelling errors in a text is 14 percent less likely to receive a positive response, compared with a man with zero spelling errors. However, poor spelling by a woman doesn’t seem to affect her chances of a positive match.
Does that seem fair? I recall that one of the grammar-teaching nuns at Immaculate Conception School in the ‘50s treated a faux pas by a male with more vigor. Somehow, Sister Malas Palabras allowed more flexibility among the girls.
I asked my wife, Bonnie, for her take on my perception. She replied, “That’s probably because the girls automatically are better spellers and made far fewer errors.” She may have a point, but to my recollection, it was boys who won spelling bees at I.C. School while girls simply had prettier penpersonship, circling the dots over the i’s and turning periods into tiny exes.
And yet, our homeroom teacher landed harder on boys who made errors. She overlooked errors on girls’ work — I guess because their writing was neater.
I was a decent speller who also knew how to write complete sentences. Occasionally, one of my flirtatious (but properly spelled) notes would go to Evelyn or Rita. So if, as Grammarly insists, writing clearly enhances chances for dances with girls, why didn’t it work in my case? And why could Mary Lou, with sloppy grammar and spelling, still manage to get boys to buy her an after-school sundae at Murphey’s?
I set out simply to show that clear notes improve one’s probably of getting a date, or at least the honor of walking her home.
And of course, the recipient of a text today first needs to determine whether the missive contains errors. So, never fail to check you’re messages carefully.