Friday, 29 June 2007

SMS text and the like...

Of late, I am being subjected to some jeers and rebukes from certain people. The reason being that I requested them, without an ounce of force, to write to me in full words. All of them seem to be so busy, that they can't afford to type "you" in place of "u", "are" in place of "r", "great" in place of "gr8" and so on. I just wonder what they are busy at. Busy chatting, eating, sleeping, lazying around (remember we are talking about being busy here!!)??? What are they busy at?? I know a certain thing, Gandhi and Tagore were certainly more busy men and these people corresponded in full words (I have seen their letters, in fact, in a rare collection of letters exchanged between these two great thinkers). Never knew India had so many self-important "busy" men and women, and still she lies in ignominious darkness. How many Nobels, Grammys, Oscars, Olympic Medals, Golden Globes does India win regularly? And we are supposed to be so "busy"!

Somebody said that sms text signifies imformality. Well, Gandhi and Tagore were far closer to each other and informal in their conversation than many orkut friends! Oh, I was forgetting the rebukes. In reply to my message that I had enough time to write complete words in English, because I'm no Einstein or Manmohan Singh, one guy ridiculed me saying that I "maybe no Einstein or Manmohan Singh, but surely a nut". I replied, promptly thanking him: for showing me whom I must NOT BE, in order to be someone different from the ordinary bloke who works in some MNC or cyberslaver (to borrow someone else's vocabulary here!) company. I said that he was helping me in the way Watson helped Holmes: giving all the incorrect solutions to Holmes' cases until he found out the real truth. Having said all this, I'm pretty sure that most readers of this post won't agree with me in principle and will continue to write SMS text, pretending to be "busy" (actually "busy" lazying around).

Before I end, I must quote two people with whom I agree completely on this matter. One, Suvro Sir, who considers writing SMS text synonymous with mutilating a beautiful language, and just short of committing some illegal crime like thievery or murder. Two, Abhirup Da, who (maybe in a certain fit of rage or disgust) said that SMS text is for semi-literate apes!

I am no very literate guy, you see. But at least, I try to be one. In that way, I'm better than the rest. Well, a last line: I am in no way saying that I am great because I write full words, and I'm not even praising myself for this. Because, it's normal to write full words (and therefore one deserves no special admiration to follow that): that's been the rule for centuries. Apparently, this changed with the turn of the millenium. The corollary: it's abnormal and STUPID to do what is not normal. Remember, neither Dickens nor Rowling wrote/writes sms text. And typing "you" in place of "u" doesn't take more than a fraction of a second if you are fast in typing. Learning to be a bit patient and careful about our language is the first step towards being civilized: language is what separates humans from apes after all!

I even expect some ridicule subjected to me here, but then I have the right to moderate comments. And I shall have the last laugh in this matter....


Abhirup said...

Dear Sudipto,
A very good essay on a very important subject. In my opinion, SMS text is used by three types of people:
1) Extremely lazy folks to whom writing 'thanks' instead of 'thanx' is an act of daunting labour. So, despite knowing that what they are doing bears the hallmark of a moron, they keep using SMS text.

2) Those who have no respect whatsoever for the English language. They think nothing of mutilating something so grand and wonderful, and hence, have no qualms about writing "Whr r u gtng admtd?" These people are boors in the classic sense of the word, and it is because of them that a country faces national disaster and decay.

3) Those who are both of the above.

People try to justify the use of SMS text in various ways. Let us have a look at some of them:

1) They are too 'busy': In this context, let me recall a story that has been etched in my mind ever since I heard it from Sir three years ago.
It was 1942. The Second World War was at its peak. Britain had suffered many humiliating defeats at the hands of Germany on the European front, and at the hands of the Japanese on the Asian front. Under such circumstances, British General Montgomery's Eighth Army was about to face German General Erwin Rommel's Afrika Corps at a place called El Alamein in Egypt. All the hopes of Britain rested on the outcome of this battle: if the British won, they still had the chance to get the better of Germany, but if they lost, they would forced to surrender. Montgomery sent a telegram to the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, asking for reinforcements. Churchill promptly replied in a letter that all the soldiers, tanks and rations Montgomery needed would be sent to him. At the end of the letter, Churchill pointed out a grammatical error that Montgomery had made in his telegram, and asked the general to correct it.

There you go! If Churchill could be careful about language while managing a war, why can't we be mindful about spelling, grammar, punctuation and proper structure of sentences? How many of us are more 'busy' than Churchill was during WWII?
Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevosky, James Michener and J.K. Rowling--all have written novels of enormous length without using SMS text. Tom Cruise, while signing the autograph book of a fan in UK, noticed that the fan has written on the page, "I luv u Tom Cruise." Cruise immediately corrected the sentence, writing, "I love you Tom Cruise", and told the fan, "Admiration shouldn't blind you to accuracy."
Are we more busy than all these people?

2) SMS text is used only when you are being 'informal': Being informal and being careless and disrespectful of language are two very different things. George Bernard Shaw and T.E. Lawrence were very informal with each other, as was Jawaharlal Nehru when he wrote letters to Indira Gandhi from jail. But they never had to use SMS text. I myself interact informally with many people through orkut and e-mail, and I haven't ever needed to use ugly acronyms for that.

3) The purpose of language is to convey your thoughts and ideas. If that can be done with SMS text, what's the harm: There IS a lot of harm. Conveying one's ideas is not the only purpose of language. Conveying those ideas in a decent, coherent and literate manner is what really matters. That is why countless people have perfected language over centuries: otherwise, we were able to convey our ideas pretty well by grunting and squealing when we were cavemen!

That's a long post, and I will not stretch it further. Let others post their views too. And I congratulate Sudipto once again for his excellent take on the menace of SMS.

Sumit said...

I quite agree with sudipto about mutilating a language by using SMS text,but i will raise one small point.I personally feel the need to use SMS text while sending SMS's purely from a financial point of view,to save money spent on sending SMS.For example-writing Gd Nite instead of Good night comes in handy when my balance is low,yet I want to maintain some basic courtesy.This is the only reason why I'm justifying writing SMS text at times,not always.

Sudipto pondering said...

There's some anonymous person out there who sent me a comment saying that three people are trying to unnecessarily make a fuss over something so small and insignificant, and even went on to call us dunderheads. I had a last laugh when I read his comment, for he was basically the coward and fool that I expected to be. Did I say he; it might as well be a she! I don't know: and that he/she has chosen to be anonymous shows that he/she lacks the basic courage to debate here. I detest such semi-literate apes!

Suvro Chatterjee said...

Sumit is perfectly right and justified. The whole point is that we are not only grossly overdoing it - especially where it is neither needed nor nice - and generally it is the very same people who do that who also cheat in many other walks of life, from studies to work to family lives, hiding behind the fig leaf of being 'busy' simply because it shames them to admit that in reality they are only too lazy and irresponsible and completely unable to appreciate the value of standards anywhere, be it in social manners or in elegance and accuracy of language. There is a word for such people in English - philistines - and when there are too many of them, a country is sure to go swiftly to the dogs. I take the issue very seriously not just because of my love for the English language or because I know that language is the very vehicle of thought and culture, but because I KNOW that there is a close link between maintaining high linguistic standards and civilisation itself. Once upon a time Britain was known for the likes of Newton, Shakespeare and Churchill, today she is known for the hoodlum gangs who call themselves football 'fans': it is not an accident that few Englishmen can speak or write good and elegant English any more! And one more thing: it is absolutely nonsensical to justify a bad habit by saying that many (or even most) people are doing it. Think: many people in our country also pass water by the roadside!

Aurko Roy said...

My sentiments exactly.A language's essence is in the beauty of it's words, the complexity of it's spelling and the subtleties of it's pronunciation. SMS text is doing nothing short of mutilating the very identity of the English language. Good work....Keep it up!

Anonymous said...


There’s one thing which disturbs me a lot and recently is the cause of my repenting. Hope you’ll able to give me some of your clear views on this matter...

What upsets me most in Durgapur is this that girls and boys are always well set apart. May be that’s because there are two most-wanted schools separately run for boys and girls. Or even if they do talk to each other, it’s always viewed as a
Whole-world-of-love-life-equation, why? I know this is a very natural human-emotion or that we all experience a certain awkwardness to the opposite gender, but at the same time, I think, this particular feeling is reserved for some special people only. If we start regarding each other as friends, I’m sure it’s possible to get over this sickly notion. I’ve already experienced this because I’ve grown up with boys (though I’m not tomboyish) and they have been my friends forever (three of them especially). We have played together and have grown to respect each other as friends (more like brothers and sister). Though all of us live in different places now, but time and space, it seems, has brought us closer rather than separating us. I’ve always gone to a co-ed school and I really don’t view boys something of an alien-species.

I’m not sure why I wrote to you about all this, but may be, both of us felt the same awkwardness to each other before this (I assure you I’m writing this whole mail more to get over my guilt than trying to rectify somebody else) and hence, even if we did wish we couldn’t approach each other in the fear of how it would look like (at least I feared this). They seem to narrow their eyes even if a boy and a girl talk to each other. I was afraid of any rumour firing up about me… And see? What we have lost? A one year old great friendship! I come to know you only when it’s just about a few months left for class 12th to end! Heaven knows how many such friendships are prevented!

In fact, frankly speaking I’m a bit introvert in talking to boys or rather initiating a talk with them ,especially in Durgapur,(I’ve previously stayed in U.P., Bihar and Orissa) because whenever I’ve done so my friend himself has formed this idea of my liking him. Ridiculous! My point is this that firstly and fore mostly we are human beings .Being girl or boy is absolutely irrelevant as an identity. We read together, walk together and feel together- I think that’s what is all about being “friends”.

Please don’t regard this as if I were bickering with you (I haven’t got that right even if I wanted to, no). I am glad the distance between us has lessened now. I accept that I wouldn’t have written to you if you didn’t initiate the talk on the closing day. I really appreciated that and liked your tastes and views, and even do now. You are a most sensitive person I’ve met in a long time. This is partly conversational and partly my meek observation of the little society around me.

Sorry for the whole lot of babble…
Hoping for a reply-

Sudipto pondering said...

Dear Sayantani,

Did you say 'babble'? Not by a distance.

And even though you didn't write the above comment to bicker with me, I myself realise that it's partly my own inability to freely converse with everyone-- boys and girls-- that resulted in such a late friendship. But that's always been the problem with me-- call it the result of eleven years of study in an all-boys school. And while I haven't grown up with stupid fantasies and notions about members of the opposite sex, there's a thing inside me that pulls me back each time I want to converse with a girl. Now that's the truth. But at times, I get over with this stupid thing: which was what happened that last closing day. I can assure you two things though. Firstly, you are always welcome to initiate a conversation with me, any time you want. I'll adequately and surely respond. Secondly, I care two hoots about what other guys have got to say: minds that can't see male-female interaction as anything but sexual attraction are sick people. For God's sake, there is something called a platonic relationship! And here's an additional third promise: I'll speak to you whenever I think that I have something to say, and when you are not in the middle of a conversation with someone else (I am too shy to actually interrupt a conversation and begin one myself in the midst of it. Forgive me for this sillyness that I've got! :D). Shyness is something that takes a little time to wear off, at least in my case!