It started out like any morning, with me rushing to get the kids out the door in time for school. That’s been a little harder lately as the days have gotten shorter and the mornings darker. But we were on track. Lunches were sorted, backpacks were loaded, and we were just stepping out into the garage when my 14-year-old son said, “OMG, BRB.”
I don’t know what he’d forgotten (besides the English language), but he ran quickly into his bedroom and back again. We were on our way, still with enough spare time that I could stop and ask, “What?”
He rolled his eyes. Probably—it was still kind of dark. “It means ‘be right back.’”
I rolled my eyes. Definitely—because he deserved it. “I KNOW what it means. I just think it makes more sense to speak actual words.”
Yes, I will freely admit that in that moment I sounded like an old person. I might as well have told him his favorite music was nothing but a bunch of loud noise or that he needed a haircut because he looks like a felon. BTW, one of those statements is true.
He shoved his stuff into the car next to his little brother and said, “Everyone uses text speak. It’s a thing you’re probably just going to have to get used to.”
Here I should clarify that my son is not generally disrespectful and this was said with a charming LOL.
And the thing is that the more I thought about it, the more I realized he might actually be right. Language does evolve, usually in ways we don’t really anticipate and, no matter how hard we try, not always for the simpler.
In March of 1906, American steel magnate Andrew Carnegie certainly tried. That’s when he recruited twenty-six influential men of letters to form the Simplified Spelling Board. Included among the membership were Melvil Dewey, who organized all the library books, and Mark Twain, who wrote quite a few of them.
The board combed through some of the most oddly spelled words in the English language to determine when and why they came to be spelled as they did. Then, so as not to confuse a change-resistant American populace, they recommended a list of just three hundred words that could be immediately simplified by influential organizations.
At least one additional powerful man agreed whole-heartedly. In August of 1906, then President Theodore Roosevelt ordered the implementation of the changes throughout all documents coming from the Executive Branch of the US government.
The press wasn’t having it and launched into sarcastic attacks on “Mr. Rucevelt” and the “notis” he’d taken of this truly important movement. The public largely agreed, and by December of that year, the House of Representatives, controlled by the president’s own Republican Party, issued a resolution supporting their strong preference for established dictionary spellings. They also said Teddy’s hair was too long and his music was too loud.
The president eventually gave up the fight and by 1920, the Simplified Spelling Board had dissolved, leaving behind a Handbook of Simplified Spelling and a nation that wasn’t particularly sorry to see them go.
But, some of those original three hundred new recommended spellings actually did get adopted into American English, including gram instead of gramme, maneuver instead of manoeuvre, and hiccup instead of hiccough. Because language evolves, and I guess I better get used to it.
For now, TYSM for reading and not marking this post TL;DR. I’m going AFK. TTYL.
See? I can evolve.
JK. I don’t textspeak.