Having quite the day of blogging today.

Merriam Webster’s Word of the Day a month or so ago was ‘nuncupative’, meaning ‘spoken rather than written’. Before reading this beauty of a qualitative adjective , I’d never heard it in my evidently skimmy life before. Now it pops into my thoughts like a badger debating what to have for tea (yes, I know. Sorry).

Today I stumbled across it again when reading the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (after I learned that he penned a new phonetic alphabet) and was reminded of the fact that so much, nowadays, is written rather than spoken. Facebook Chat and BBM seem to have replaced the need to leave the house to meet up with people just to hang out: they are the agoraphobic loner’s dream, surely? The awkward time when people get bored of each other’s company face-to-face; the ‘right, yes, sorry, well, must be off’ point in the conversation has been obliterated by the ‘gtg’ or ‘brb’ (then disappearing and ‘forgetting’ to return) initialism. Or for those cooler hipsters, a simple ‘bye’ seems to do the trick. No more waffling, no more awkward penguin sidling sideways to leave the room whilst still partaking in half a conversation.

So then, now we’re in a weird, complicated age, especially for those people who grew up without mobile phones and computers. From spoken language being less formal fewer than twenty years ago, we have moved into an era where some forms of written language have assimilated some features of spoken language, and, what is more, children who grow up with this are able to distinguish between spoken mode, written mode and this new ‘technological mode’, rarely mixing up the conventions of each (see Crystal, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7WSzxQ0nX4).  Even the purist and mini-prescriptivist in me is forced to agree that our English language is only being enriched by this new addition, not destroyed. And for the prescriptivists among you: if wills were nuncupative now, the state wouldn’t accept their validity; verbal promises are no longer trusted. People are no longer trusted to keep their word; the world has changed. Is it no wonder, then, that our language changes to meet the demands of this era? And is this really such a bad thing?


6 thoughts on “Colloquy for one.

  1. Thanks for reading my blog, thought I’d return the favour! 🙂 This is a really interesting topic. I find the development of this semi-written language online endlessly fascinating and it throws up so many questions as it grows and changes, such as: what kind of status is it appropriate to “like”? When is it appropriate to disagree with someone’s opinion online? Does LOL still mean ‘laugh out loud’ or it is becoming a word in its own right with a slightly different meaning? I also find it interesting how people adopt slightly different personalities behind the anonymity of their screen names and Facebook/twitter profiles, becoming a little more of who they would like to be.

    • Thanks!

      Yes, interesting point you make about LOL and whether that’s developed in meaning. I think there can be a certain amount of derision in there now, as well as the usual “that’s funny” meaning.

      Technology has changed our lives and language so much…

  2. seeing as how you find unusual words of interest you could use the technological wizadry to have a listen (or relisten??) to a radio 4 (god bless ’em) prog (that’s txtspk) called the Horoblogicon – i’ll say no more, but take a listen. (it was on each morning last week at 9.45am. Oh and the book on which the programme was based is available at just £10.99, a saving of £2 on the RRP. i give this information not in the hope of receiving royalties from Radio Times but as gesture to the development of the English language LOL!

      • I thought that if you had a perfectly correct reply you may find it boreing…. so …… you spotted the missing brackets but didn’t spot the deliberate missing word – and i apologise in advance for this appalling error ………

      • Darn! You got me there. Spotted it now, but the bracket overrode everything for a moment.

        Thanks for the recommendation – I’ll have a listen very soon.

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