Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Chaos made orderly

I read in my local paper that a 15-year-old girl won a national texting contest. For those of you who consider the whole texting/twittering phenomenon one more sign of the decline of civilization, take heart.
It seems that texting is not random after all. Not even semi-random. Listen to this quote from the paper (which is sometimes semi-random): "[The winner] had to text three lengthy phrases without making any mistakes on the required abbreviations, capitalization or punctuation."
Texting has moved very quickly from an anarchy to a rule-governed behavior. Which means that even adults can learn it. It's simply a different way of writing, with different rules. If this seems strange, consider that it's no stranger than the very stringent (and very different from each other) rules for documentation that the MLA, University of Chicago, and the APA put out.
The fact is that humans can't interact without rules of behavior. Linguists call them things like "conversational implicatures," and other long words, but all it means is that we can't behave randomly and be comprehended. Who was it who said "To be great is to be misunderstood"? It could be, because a great person may operate from a different set of rules. However, poets take heed: the converse is not true. It doesn't hold that to be misunderstood is to be great.


bekkieann said...

But why were we all forced to learn the QWERTY keyboard when we already had our perfectly good ABCs?

On both your houses said...

Ah, the qwerty keyboard. Current wisdom is that it was developed to slow down fast typists who got ahead of the mechanism and fouled up the keys (I need to check that for urban legend status). It stays because it's a standard, and standardization is good.