An abbreviated history of my descent into text speak

TEXT IS THE NEW NORWICH: The use of acronyms is not exclusive to texting UC

TEXT IS THE NEW NORWICH: The use of acronyms is not exclusive to texting UC - Credit: Archant

I have been grappling with the knotty problem of text speak.

Now I am about to do something I rarely do in public – change my mind. And it is the subject of text speak that has caused this something of a Road to Damascus conversion.

Honestly, I have never abbreviated any part of a text message. I do not drop apostrophes. I do not insert rows of dots... unless they are expedient. I fondly imagine my text grammar is immaculate. No trailing prepositions unless they are contextually apposite, then I put them in.

When I do abbreviate in a text, it tends to be the usual ante meridian, post meridian etcetera.

This is why a crowd often gathers to watch when I am composing a message. For a start my varifocals do not have an optimal viewing place in the lens for texting, so I peer over the top of them like Red Riding Hood’s granny welcoming her lupine visitor before he (depending on the version of the story) bundles her into a cupboard or eats her. Mind you, if he wanted to eat this granny, he would need to be one hungry wolf. My best-before date expired at least a decade ago.

Once I have focus on the tiny screen, I begin the painful process of tapping out the letters. My husband uses predictive text but I got so annoyed with mine when it suggested words I do not want that I disabled the function and now I don’t know where it is – like so many of my useful functions.

My least favourite letter is ‘s’ because I have to tap the button four times to achieve it. Consequently, I try to avoid words with ‘s’ in them. I also try not to ask too many questions as the interrogative is six symbols along and two down. This means making Downton Abbey-type statements such as “Come to lunch on Sunday, do.”

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So though I have a shorthand speed at about 100 words per minute and a typong spud of around 50wpm (minus corrections), I have a text speed of just 2wpm. It would probably be quicker to catch a pigeon, tie a note to its leg and tell it the postcode.

So, with such limited ability, who am I to baulk at the term LOL? It is an innocent term of jollity that shortcuts saying: “I thought that was really funny” or the rather perturbing “ha ha” that people occasionally email. I’m never sure if that means LOL or WTD (the latter is a toned-down version of WT*).

In other words, a snappy acronym may be better than an unnecessarily long exposition. And there is a rather amusing element of deprecation now available, as in AAAAA, which is the American Association Against Acronym Abuse.

For the skilled acronymist there is access to higher level usage such as AFAHMASP (a fool and his money are soon parted) or BOBFAC (body off Baywatch; face off Crimewatch) and for the incurably romantic BTWITIAILWU (By The Way I Think I Am In Love With You). They’re not going to be accepted as Scrabble words any time soon, are they.

Many of them are outside my sphere of operation (OMSOO). For example, having only once ventured into a Starbucks I have had no cause to use *$ but at least it has some style, unlike the snide sounding 2BZ4UQT (too busy for you, cutie).

My conversion came when, like a bolt out of the blue (BOOB... maybe not) it suddenly occurred to me that this sort of thing, far from being new, has long been a way of conveying a tender message.

Many of us remember the loving note on the back of an envelope SWALK – sealed with a loving kiss – and of course, the legendary all-time great NORWICH – knickers off ready when I come home. And this particular acronym also pre-empts modern usage by the default consonant N for kn.

It’s all right, it’s not rude. It was used by servicemen in the Second World War in their letters home.

What was the effect if you actually lived in Norwich?

I am indebted to members of the Kesgrave Friendship Group for BURMA (Be undressed/upstairs ready, my angel) and ITALY (I trust and love you).

The other one I have encountered is MALAYA (My ardent lips await your arrival), which has something almost poetic about it, an undercurrent of sublimated passion.

It is redolent of an age of verbal elegance when no-one had yet devised the text speak KMUF (kiss me you fool), which is neither poetic nor a country. In fact, it has a ring of the A-Team’s blinged-up BA Baracus about it.

And so I have descended the ladder from the moral high ground and accepted that a bit of acronymisation is harmless.

Although I won’t be using it, obviously. LOL

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