Monday, November 06, 2006

Got2 get a mssg 2u

The English language is a remarkable thing. It’s in a state of permanent flux, forever changing and developing. New words and phrases come along all the time to reflect the trends and inventions of modern life and popular culture. Earwitness. Muffin top. Snoutcast. Celebutard. Songlifting. Dirt pill. They may stick around and enter common usage, or they might hover for a while before falling out of favour and dropping out of sight. It’s linguistic evolution innit.

One of the most revolutionary of all recent changes has come about through the mobile phone Short Message Service phenomenon. It has led to the adoption of a whole new lexicon of abbreviations which make it possible to squeeze long missives into the 160 character per message limit that SMS imposes. Dropping vowels and skipping punctuation, using single letters instead of doubles, utilising numbers, symbols and phonetic acronyms to replace either all or part of a word – these are just some of the tools that can be used by txtrs + they wrk a fckn trt. Evry1s tkn 2 it like dux 2 wtr.

Today’s image, which appears on a wall at the Grassmarket end of Edinburgh’s Cowgate, just across the road from Subway nightclub, shows how enterprising scribblers can cleverly combine the old with the new. The author of this example, Rab, has taken one of the longest-running forms of graffiti, where the writer marks the wall with their name or initials followed by the words ‘was here’, and has merged it seamlessly with a postscript that owes a debt to txt mssgs.

Unfortunately, Rab seems to have become a little confused mid-message, and our angry young man has got himself into a bit of a pickle. Judging by his jagged handwriting, he seems to have written it in an almighty hurry. In his rush to complete the job, Rab has shown a startling lack of consistency between the use of upper and lower case lettering, and he has also penned ‘ur’ instead of ‘yr’. Both of these add personal touches to his work, but the second point also results in shorthand that can easily be misread as ‘up you are arse’, instead of ‘up your arse’, which was surely his intended message to the world. Oh dear.

Never mind Rab, it’s the thought that counts. And we know exactly what you mean.

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