People worry that spelling and grammar are going out of the window. In a world of txt speak, in a world where ‘ask’ mysteriously becomes ‘aks’ (or ax?), in a world where even my middle class, podiatrist friend accidentally called me ‘blood’ in a moment of bonding, it’s easy to worry that nobody cares.
But they do.
It used to be true that Microsoft was the arbiter of truth, with it’s infamous squiggly green and red lines telling us when we had deviated from accepted (American) English. Whilst computers may be driving us towards abbreviation and foreshortening, they can be our saviour too. There are a number of new Apps that focus on grammar, like ‘iGE: the interactive grammar of English from UCL’. Whilst it will win no prizes for it’s title, it is a great tool for learning and practicing your grammar.
But a new force is also at work. Some time ago, i wrote an article about the importance of spelling. The title of the article was ‘The Improtance of Spelling’. It was a joke that i found funny at the time, but it wore thin. First, the iPad insisted on correcting it at every opportunity, but then, worse, my father left a comment. With a wilful glee at the failure of my entire education, he announced to the world that i’d got it wrong.
Naturally, whilst i can weather the opprobrium of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, when my spelling goes amiss in the cause of humour, this was one step too far, and I did the honourable thing and deleted his comment.
But now it gets worse. Yesterday i talked about ‘practice’. Or maybe ‘practise’. I forget. In fact, i never knew. Yes, there are two words, but i’m damned if i know which one to use when.
But not my mother. No, to her the failing is clear, clear enough to send me a text in the wee small hours of the night identifying the error of my ways. Clear enough to indicate her maternal disproval at the mangling of the English language. THIS is what happens when you empower the silver surfer. My parents now have more iPads than me and are wielding them to deadly effect. I should count myself lucky that my mother hasn’t figured out how to leave comments yet.
I thought the point of technology was to disenfranchise people over thirty? But no, now not only can my mother remind me that i’ve forgotten my brother’s birthday by text, email or Facetime, she can correct my typographical inexactitudes and frustrate my attempts to discombobulate the new world order in short order. The barriers of spelling and grammar are not dropping, they are higher and more public than ever!