Language Then and Now

110315_ColonialAmericaCostumes

A text message received last week:

110315_Pumpkin  parT on Fri. R u going?

Eeeeeeeek! Commence internal editorial wincing.

I freely admit to composing (mostly) grammatically correct emails/texts/IMs, including abbreviations. Spending an extra 15 seconds to write a lovely, concise message provides a ridiculous amount of satisfaction.

One can’t live in a vacuum, though, so I make point to be conversant in the latest digital slang, while not actively indulging. Language, like culture, is fluid and evolving.

On Halloween this past Saturday, my husband and I dressed in Colonial American garb to complement my son’s own trick-or-treating costume. (Since visiting Colonial Williamsburg in August, my eight-year-old has been on a Revolutionary-era history kick.) Eighteenth-century fashion was so formal! English was similarly prescribed; consider this example from the Colonial Williamsburg website (www.history.org/history/teaching/enewsletter/june03/english.cfm):

“Sir, if you please, may I speak with you a moment?”

Fast forward 200-plus years for twenty-first century, much-more-casual variations:

“Can we talk?”
“What’s up?”
“Hey!”

Where will American English be in another century or so? We can only guess. One certainty: spoken language will continue to progress and change, as will the written version – both in the print and digital realms.

The picture above, taken by my son (verified by his thumb in the upper right corner), sums up this train of thought nicely. My husband and I gladly looked forward, stepping out of that stiff, posed past and into the present of informal language and (thankfully) comfortable outfits.

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