OMG: Lol and Behold

Posted: 28 February 2014

How writing and its technology has changed in the last few years...
How writing and its technology has changed in the last few years…

“Language changes very fast” – John Maynard Smith.

As a wordsmith trained in more traditional ways of writing, Bradscribe cannot help but notice the strange, swift and staggering shuffle that has beset the English languge in the last twenty years.

When at university (and loving every windswept, rain-soaked minute of it), up to seventeen years ago(!), mobile phones were just catching on; it swiftly became apparent that texting was becoming the new norm for faster and shorter communication.

With a monumental growth in urbanization, and a corresponding rise in the percentage of the world population who inhabit an urban environment, work-patterns and lifestyles in general have altered tremendously. Cultural values have played a part in the transformation of language(s); but ultimately, the phenomenal proliferation of hand-held technology has had a dramatic impact, bringing a new wave cascade of abbreviated, truncated, slang-driven jargon – completely ripping up the rules of language and how it is utilised. The “written word” seems to be an out-dated concept in itself, with this tendency to text, and even use symbols (emoticons being particularly rife) on rapidly evolving small, touch-type devices.

New words constantly enter the English language (directly derived from texting and other communicative media no less), while disused ones drop into oblivion; moreover, existing words have been swiped by the new-gen to carry entirely different denotations.  

These days, less people write longhand, while more people text
These days, less people write longhand, while more people text

“Use what language you will, you can never say anything but what you are” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Whether it be on the train in England, or in the shopping malls of Thailand, most people seem to have their heads bowed towards their smartphones, endlessly texting, besides loading apps or playing useless games. Bradscribe just glances at this thoroughly modern crowd with a slight amused grin.  If the trains weren’t so ridiculously packed, you could most likely find me ROTFL.

One would say this scene is extraordinary, but it is so mind-bogglingly prevalent that it must surely now count as ordinary activity.

Interestingly, if a peep at some of their texts was possible, the chances of actually understanding any of the slang and abbreviations on show would be minimal. This should not come as a surprise. Such is the bewilderment of a constantly fluctuating language, transmogrifying through multifarious phases since its inception as Old English (derived from Old German) in tangible written form during the 5th century CE. Shaped by social upheavals of the Medieval Period, it twisted and turned into what is labelled Middle English, and then into Early Modern English, before settling on the Modern English used in the present.

With the upgrades in English Comprehension described (and dreaded!) above, it would appear that we are already immersed in the next tantalising stage of this incredible linguistic journey.  

The most widely used language in the world is constantly changing.
The most widely used language in the world is constantly changing.

“Viewed freely, the English language is the accretion and growth of every dialect, race, and range of time, and is both the free and compacted composition of all” – Walt Whitman.  

Increasing my presence on Facebook in the last 18 months, the major aspect one has had to get used to is working out what the mass of assorted acronyms included therein actually stand for. Easily, the most common expression to be found amidst the Comments must be the acronym:”lol,” short for Laugh Out Loud.

Originally appearing regularly on Usenet, this expression has since become ubiquitous on just about every other form of computer-mediated communication, and made its debut in the Oxford English Dictionary in March 2011. It is only in recent months that Bradscribe has succumbed to utilising it in his own brief texts.

Will my writing style have to change in order to accommodate these changes in my language? One hopes that drastic alterations will not be needed. While some people strive to move with the times,  it is comforting to know that others will appreciate my adherence to more traditional creative values.   

Part of the wonder of English lies in its ability to have adjusted and adapted across many centuries, while stagnant languages have completely died out.

It just remains to be seen what other tectonic shifts are in store for the English language, and how and when we will seize the chance to use them.

 

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The Midnight Special

Posted: 12 February 2014.

On with the Nightshift
On with the Nightshift

“I often think that the night is more alive and more richly coloured than the day” – Vincent Van Gogh.  

The clock strikes Midnight, and yet Bradscribe is still at his desk hammering the keys on his sturdy laptop. The early hours of the morning have always held a very special appeal.

During those three memorable years at university, studying by day and thinking twice about venturing out to the dangerous city centre at night just hindered my progress, and had to be rectified. When this routine was reversed – thankfully for the better – the rate of productivity miraculously increased. Long after university this habit has joyously continued.

This writer takes pride in being a Night-Owl. Whether in the east or the west, gradually the lights of the other houses in the street go out, leaving me to revel in the solitude. With a purring laptop, some dishevelled notes and the pleasant addition of ambient music, the night becomes a most magical time. 

Sometimes it’s amazing to just slink away from the desk, wander onto the quiet balcony, be fanned by a comforting cool breeze and just gaze at the stars…

Great solace can be attained from nocturnal graft.

The Desktop Companion
The Desktop Companion

“Sometimes I lie awake at night, and ask: ‘Where have I gone wrong?’ and a voice says to me: ‘This is going to take more than one night'” – Charles M. Schulz. 

In countless Q&As, writers state that they prefer to spring to their desk at the crack of dawn and work out a cache of pages before midday, then carry out chores during the afternoon.

In my case though, the exact opposite applies; a replenishing afternoon nap and then my mind will function splendidly after dark. This writer has tried – Good Lord, has he tried! – to conform to this so-called conventional day-time formula, but has struggled to produce decent material; not even a good flow can be worked up before lunch. The trouble with writing during the day is the noise, business that can only be sorted out during daylight hours, and other needless distractions.

Sooty, our cat, likes to be with us wherever we go in the house; in the evening, she prefers to stay in and curl up at the foot of the bed, rather than mingle with the local alley cats. At some point during the early hours, she will wander in, just to spend time with me. Usually she will jump onto the desk and rearrange the papers to use as a pillow; as long as she doesn’t go mental and “file” my papers with her teeth, then she can be quite a lovely companion.

Somewhere in another street, a stray dog starts howling; Sooty sits up and glances anxiously out of the mosquito screen, her tail flailing from side to side. Quickly realising that there is no danger, she settles down to dream once more…

Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me

“I’m a night owl… My goal as a writer is more to comfort, than to disturb” – Joni Mitchell.   

The nightshift has become an irresistible part of my life in Southeast Asia. The early hours of any day out here are pleasantly cool (in surprising contrast to the humidity at high noon), and apart from the obstreperous bin-collectors or a speeding nocturnal motorcyclist, the peace to be attained here is really conducive to sometimes lengthy creative sessions.

Being in this particularly captivating part of the world, if you listen carefully at 4am, a monk in a nearby wat (temple) clangs a big bell, calling all his brethren to start their Buddhist routine for the new day.

When the heavens open up and the torrents lash against my office window, it’s always so inspirational. In September & October, the monsoons are fairly frequent, and thunder always invigorates an atmospheric session.

As the roosters over the road start their shrill hollering, heralding the imminent dawn, this writer does feel his inner data bank shutting down…

Time to get some well-earned napping in before lunch, then start the new Blog during the afternoon.

TechNO!!

Concocted a week ago, but due to noisy neighbours and other needless distractions (not to mention technical mishaps), this post was not published until 28 January 2014.

Modern technology: enough to drive you round the bend or up the wall?
Modern technology: enough to drive you round the bend or up the wall?

“It has become appallingly ovious that our technology has exceeded our humanity” Albert Einstein.  

At last, my return to the Blogosphere is complete.

After revelling in the joy of having mastered the art of blogging and all its little technical inticracies, this writer was stumped to find that his latest post, albeit a mere first draft, not only failed to save properly, but disappeared altogether, zapped into that darkest and most perplexing of all mysteries: the limbo of cyberspace. Where it took hours to produce one blog, it only takes one nanosecond for one computer to erase. What the deuce?!

Was Bradscribe grounded before he could even contemplate reaching the heights of blogging greatness? Let me hasten to add that there are no worries here about WordPress: the finest blogging site available in the known universe; no, this is merely my Rage Against the Machines. Too many times whilst ploddin’ away on ANY writing task, the screen would freeze, the cursor would disappear, or the mouse refused to function. Several times during the last two months the need to chat and unwind with my wife took hold, but – would-u-adam-n-eve it – Skype would not work either… ha!

Alas, this is a reminder of essay-writing at university: “technical faults would NOT be accepted as an excuse for late essays” read the bold & official form, yet that’s the one excuse which caused two of my essays to be late – dammit! 

In those days, students would congregate in computer clusters, fiddle, fluster and fidget for ten minutes until the whole unit crashed; now, of course, every student has their own laptop and tap away to their heart’s content, safe in the knowledge that it is their device and incapable of malfunctioning!

'Puter or paper - sometimes it's jeasier to just go with the latter
‘Puter or paper – sometimes it’s jeasier to just go with the latter

“Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means of going backwards” – Aldous Huxley.   

Since my first tentative steps into wordprocessing, countless unutterable problems have tampered my work and upset my frame of mind. How can this be?

Rare conversations with Technophiles presented some classic odd moments: they just could not fathom how that which grants them immeasurable pant-wetting pleasure can fix me with such utter toil and hardship. Sometimes they look at me as if this great writer had just farted next to them in the same elevator. Why should they derive such joy from technology that ultimately frustrates me?? Never did the mind boggle more…

At some point, these whizz-kids must have encountered the same, or similar, problems – at least found themselves in a university cluster… which crashed.

I cannot be alone!

Sometimes it's better to just sit back & not dwell on modern tech stuff...
Sometimes it’s better to just sit back & not dwell on modern tech stuff…

“One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man” – Elbert Hubbard. 

Of all the insufferable…. Hang on, there has to be a logical solution to this annoying situation (without lobbing the laptop outta the window.) There have been days when all you can do is sit back and guffaw heartily at the sheer irony and commonality of tech mishaps. It is strange, sometimes distracting, for this 20th century boy to see the proliferation of tech devices. While a lot of people can’t do without them, to me, it’s a case of: Keep your friends close, your tech gadgets closer.

And another thing… There is nothing more deflating than the term: ‘upgrade the system’ – is there, arguably, three more calamitous words in the English language? In this writer’s experience: certainly not. Whole streams of work, work hours, or even the entire day, have been lost because some “expert” considered the best plan of action would be to “fix” what was NOT broken.

This post will end here (before the wrath against anything new, shiny and/or complicated escalates) with Bradscribe happily and humbly lying back to reminisce about a simpler time of typewriters and longhand scribbling…