Friday, October 31, 2008

469 Audit THIS

469 Audit THIS

Taking a course for which no credit is given and no fee is charged can be a lot of fun, a good "learn" and a major downer.

This last one comes from observing the other "kids" in the class, most much younger.

This space has never had much use for the grammar police, the spelling police or even the concept police. But there are limits.

Don't they teach English in high school any more? Or is it just that in the 21st century world of computer instant messaging and "texting" as the kids call it, there's no room for anything even barely formal.

"Texting" isn't new to some of us. It's a compressed and abbreviated form of communication that today's generation has embraced, and because thetelcoms charge a lot for this service, compression and abbreviation rule.

Any among us who've worked for what we old timers call "the wire services," know better. In the early days, the "long lines" companies, like AT&T and Western Union, which allowed the news to be spread worldwide in an instance charged by the word. So the AP, United Press and International News Service developed a min-language for communicating among their bureaus.

We at the AP called it the message wire. Can you figure this sentence out? "Richmond: unfind VA poll results. -NY." Simple, really. It's New York headquarters telling the bureau in Richmond that it was expecting a story about an election poll in Virginia. Six words instead of ten. Saved space, time and -- originally -- money.

By the time we got to the wire, the per-word thing had already long been a thing of the past. But the tradition of using that lingo persisted.

One guy is said to have quit his post by sending a message that read "Upstick job assward."

So texting is nothing new.

But the men and women of the Associated Press message wire were literate. They did this stuff intentionally. Today's texters -- and today's class assignment writers often aren't.

The problem isn't the chin-up appropriateness of the language. The problem is when the language deteriorates, so do the concepts the words and sentences represent.

Upstick class assward.




Shrapnel

--In February, 2006, I wrote this item about Paul Harvey, a tribute to a giant in my trade, who managed not to retire despite the rumors at the time. Now, in his 90s he's rarely on the air and when he is, he's sounding not just old, but old and ailing. I hope people will remember him not as he is, but as he was.

--Did you catch the Obama infomercial the other night? Apparently it was aimed at pushing straddlers onto his side of the fence. For those of us already there, it didn't mean much.

--Note to GEICO. Thanks for lowering my car insurance premium for the upcoming year. But I still want to crush that advertising lizard of yours and plan to put in a damage claim if I do.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(R)
(C)WJR 2008

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