English as a language has never been simple, especially since the time it got richly influenced by other languages like Latin, Spanish, French and others. When it comes to pronunciations there are not many who can claim to have achieved perfection or even expertise in this language of the royals. There’s always some word which will catch you off-guard and make you rethink about your English speaking skills no matter which version of English you speak – Australian, Indian, British or American. Adding more to this predicament is the latest addition of Internet chatting lingos which you must have come across as abbreviations like ROFL, LOL, F9, NFI or the viral signature of XOXOXO! and more often than not most of us just get flummoxed when we are faced with such terms.
This revolution hit me first when I received an email from a friend of mine, who also happened to be my colleague at work, duly signed off with XOXOXO and I couldn’t stop wondering since when has a formal sign off like “Thanks/Best Regards/Warm Regards” got replaced with more cool sounding phrase like XOXOXO. In fact I didn’t know if it was “official” to use such phrases beyond your circle of close chums.
Right from my schools days I was taught to end all letters, which did not fall into the personal category, with a formal sign off like “Thanks/Best Regards/Warm Regards” irrespective of if I knew the person the letter was addressed to or not. This concept was further reinforced by my father who ensured that we mastered the correct format and letter writing skills when we were young. Those were the days when the concept of email was still getting developed in Sabeer Bhatia’s brain and the common people relied at large on the mercy and agility of the postal services. They considered themselves lucky when they received letters addressed to them (and not to someone Tom, Dick or Harry) and even luckier if the letter got delivered within a respectable timeframe of a month.
The technology wave almost instantly changed the way people communicated with each other and with this came the inevitable (d)evolution of the English language. While I decoded LOL (Laugh Out Loud) very quickly and without much help I did grapple to find out ROFL (Rolling on Floor Laughing) and then LMFAO (Laughing my F***ing A** Out) and now this XOXOXO (Hugs and Kisses) syndrome.
Starting with teenagers, such short forms of English have hooked those in the age group of 20 to mid 30s as well. While it absolutely makes sense to use such abbreviations when you send messages over cell phones, taking it to emails and physical letters that too outside your personal circle is blatant abuse of English language. Evolution as they say is an unstoppable process and everything which we see, hear, eat and breathe has undergone change is some manner. So did languages and English is no exception in this case. While grammar is no longer a stringent rule for conversing in English, punctuations are fast losing their significance in the written form. Some people don’t think is it wrong when they write you’re for your and it’s for its. Amidst this entire hullabaloo we also have situations where few bunch of words are used to express the entire gamut of adjectives in the English language. For these people most of the things in life are either “sexy” or “cool” whether they are referring to a luxurious bathroom, sleek phone or an elegant dress. Other adjectives don’t appeal to them much.
English has come a long way from the times of Shakespeare to my parents’ generation, my generation to the present Gen Z. It is losing its uptight aristocratic sheen and adapting itself to the banal needs of common man. We can fret, laugh and feel shocked at times but this evolution is bound to happen. I admit that faster we adapt to this change the better we would be at communicating with the coming generations, but may I please request them to let grammar be grammar. Let this language evolve in a true sense and not get murdered by our silliness and lack of dexterity.
By: Madhumita Thakur