Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Why can't anybody spell?

"Oh big yawn" was my first response when I read this question, the subtitle of a new book deliberately called Accomodating Brocolli in the Cemetary. "Surely not another shedload of crusty old farts moaning on about Young People Today, and Why Their EnglishTeachers Should All Be Sacked Immediately?", I mumbled to myself...

But hey, guess what, we're all doing fine, and this is an interesting read! It doesn't say that spelling doesn't matter - just that it tends to be overrated, and that the vast range of irregularities English spelling has are evidence of its multilingual tolerance, and its hugely creative potential.

Take text messaging, for example, with all its abbreviations and "creative" spellings. Evidence of degenerate youths corrupting the language? Well, of course not - I'm not young, and I used to thoroughly enjoy spelling tests at school, but even I really can't be bothered to type whole words in when I'm poking at a tiny keypad with what suddenly seems a gigantic thumb. We are responding to technology, adapting language in a way that makes perfectly good sense to our audience (well, usually...).

What is interesting about the second link is that this is a response the English Language is able to make. I hadn't realised that not all languages cope as well with text messaging. How do you say 'kitten heels' in Russian? is an email conversation (edited for publication) between a novelist, Scarlett, and her Russian translator, Dennis. It contains some really interesting insights into the problems Dennis faced with idioms and culturally specific references, but he also explains how much more difficult text messaging ("es-em-esky") is in Russian than in English.

So, check 'em out and zap your thoughts on the board. And how 'bout you bilingual bods sharing your thoughts on es-em-esky in other languages?...

Accomodating Brocolli in the Cemetary

How do you say 'kitten heels' in Russian?


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