Messiest desk contest

LOL! IM l@merz ruining English language, NYT sez

As if baggy pants weren’t enough … the latest bit of boomer America-in-peril handwringing is instant messaging.

Apparently, teachers nationwide are finding that subliterate kids are using ‘l33t lingo in academic papers, substituting “r” for “are”, “b4” for “before”, h8 for “hate”, etc. You get the picture. Thankfully, intelligent lexographers like Jesse Sheidlower — North American editor of the Oxford English Dictionary — point out that “there is no official English language”; it always changes with time, and slang is as old as the hills. And IM usage is not, actually, nongrammatical. After all, “grammar” means nothing more than a set of linguistic rules that a certain group of people abide by, which is why English and Russian and even ebonics each have a grammar, and probably even sports enthusiasts, who speak in a language that is, as far as I’m concerned, as impenetrable as Ojibway.

Killer discussion of this at Slashdot — with over 1,000 posts, one of the biggest arguments I’ve ever seen there. Most of ‘em are annoyed that students can’t tell the difference between IMing and academic writing (“Should the teacher scrawl 0W3ND in big red marker across the paper?”) My total favorite — a version of the Lord’s Prayer in l33ts3@k:

Our Father, who 0wnz heaven, j00 r0ck! May all 0ur base someday be belong to you! May j00 0wn earth just like j00 0wn heaven. Give us this day our warez, mp3z, and pr0n through a phat pipe. And cut us some slack when we act like n00b lamerz, just as we teach n00bz when they act lame on us. Please don’t give us root access on some poor d00d’z box when we’re too pissed off to think about what’s right and wrong, and if you could keep the f3i off our backs, we’d appreciate it. For j00 0wn r00t on all our b0x3n 4ever and ever, 4m3n.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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