Do you understand this language? If you do, then there is a good chance that you are either under the age of twenty five, or that you know people of that age. As writers, such syntax and abuse of punctuation can make one want to punch a wall. Repeatedly. Whilst I can sympathize with this outlook, as a young person, my heart lies with the art that lies behind these words. It is a peculiar and difficult tongue, relying heavily on imagery and abbreviation to convey the speaker’s original thought. Nonetheless, it is important that people learn to accept it.
Since the dawn of time there have been arguments and misunderstandings between different generations of humans. This has been happening for as long as there have been young people, Socrates once famously saying that:
“The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.”
The same is still true today, though it can seem more evident with the internet forcing the groups to clash as they attempt to use the same spaces. Problems only arise when one group insists that another is [insert your choice of pejorative term here], which divides the people who read it according to age. Many older people like to poke fun at the younger generations, which is understandable, as we have many facets to poke fun at. We take selfies, we follow strange and unusual make up trends, and we speak or write differently to people who were not raised with the internet.
But is it a case of just being different, or better?
As young people grow older, we are beginning to have a real impact on the English language. Terms that started as youthful slang are being carried on by older people who originally used them as teenagers. Whilst it is widely degraded as the death of traditional language, it could just be the case of an evolution of sorts. Language used to be a constantly evolving medium, with words shifting and disappearing at a steady rate. It can be said that with the arrival of the internet, this process was sent into hyperdrive. At this moment, anyone reading this could instantly send a message to someone living on the other side of the world, even someone in space! With such a change in context of what is being written, it follows that naturally the language should grow to accommodate it. That just makes it different. Just as no one is saying that modern English is better than Old English, so we should accept the never-ending development of our language.
This new linguistic branch is incredibly exciting, as it is more sophisticated than it looks. Taking the phrase from earlier ‘OK, so I kinda low-key want to disappear, IYKWIM? Like, IDEK, I’m so tired I just want to curl up and. Go. To. Sleep. See that picture of a cut down tree? Me. #nope ‘, we can infer a lot of information through the word choice and literary devices used. In these four sentences, there is an example of analogy, quantification, and acronym. The fact that millions of teenagers and young people are using these complex literary devices as fluently as they speak is nothing short of remarkable. No one has ever been formally taught to determine the use of the terms IDK or LOL, they have just been accepted into modern culture.
Similarly, different meanings can be interpreted through the punctuation and phrasing. Whilst having the same basic definition, there is a great difference between the terms:
And this is absolutely fascinating, frustrating as it must be to non-native speakers. It is incredible how the capitalization and punctuation of a simple word can denote so many emotions, whilst no description or context is added. In this way, we should be embracing changes to our informal language, because it is not reducing the sophistication of our speech. There will always be tensions between different groups of people, but if we accept that different does not mean better, then maybe we can all begin to embrace the absurdity and complexity of our shared tongue.