Texts and tweets no threat to a living language

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From: Dominic Rayner, Gledhow Avenue, Roundhay, Leeds.

SUSAN Towle writes (Yorkshire Post, June 2) that she does not like text messaging and tweeting, partly because of the shorthand language that users employ.

She bemoans the state of English, as used by young people in their text messages. I am sure that if Ms Towle were to see the schoolwork of teenagers at my daughter’s high school, she would find prose to be proud of – littered only with the occasional spelling errors and grammatical slips that people (including me) have been making since long before mobile phones became common.

Everyone knows the difference between a hurried text message and a considered draft of a longer piece, even teenagers. The most important thing when using language is to be understood. It is at least as important for a teenager to make himself understood in a text message as it is for Ms Towle to make sense to your readers in a letter to your columns, and that means using the right abbreviated forms for his circle of friends.

Ms Towle goes on to suggest an example of a grammatical error caused by too much texting. She suggests that “I text her yesterday” is an example of improper use of the past (imperfect) tense.

But wait – there is (thankfully) no committee setting the rules for English; dictionaries derive their entries from examples of written usage. “To text” is a new verb. Who is to say that it should be a regular (or weak) verb, obeying the rule that would make “I texted her yesterday” the correct form? “Text” sounds like a past participle, anyway (liked “foxed”). If, through regular usage “to text” becomes the first new irregular (or strong) verb in the English language for over 150 years, we should rejoice in our linguistic freedom.