I sat down to lunch with a former student recently. He’s now a tenured English professor at a major university, so we fell into a discussion about how digital communication is transforming our language. After we’d finished our quiches and said our goodbyes, I came home comforted by the knowledge that he, too, had his doubts about all the modifications.
As language is the record of our thoughts and experiences, it must be fluid and alter with the times. But the electronic age is ushering in sweeping changes. Not only must I master technical terms to talk about the technology, but to use it I’m required to employ symbols that look like World War II code. The pound sign (#), for example, isn’t a pound sign anymore. It’s a hash tag. Not only has its name changed but so has its use. I see it on Twitter all the time and my impulse is to ignore it. But this strategy is losing ground as the symbol is popping up everywhere, like fruit flies at a summer banana convention. Here’s an example from Twitter.
Put a gun to my head, and I’ll hazard a guess as to meaning. Debbie is interested in a new car. Beyond that. I can’t say more. Here’s another message that is entirely puzzling:
I hope Bill’s message is neither immoral nor illegal. Or, if it is, I hope I haven’t committed a crime by passing it along. Or if I have, I hope I can plead ignorance.
Anyone curious to learn about these symbols should read this: https://www.yahoo.com/tech/a-crash-course-in-the-language-of-twitter-91996747734.html
Anyone in doubt about my feelings concerning these changes, read this: *#&%#!