Remembering Chatspeak – and Dialect

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In writing, sometimes voice doesn’t mean style.

Sometimes voice actually means voice.

Today I want to look at two forms of actual voice, Chatspeak and Dialect.

For years I was up in arms about what I call chatspeak, that short, quick, and very abbreviated form of communication used in texting, sexting, and Twitter.  I believed that while the short form of English had its place—as mentioned—it was entirely out of place in every day writing.

I still believe that, by the way, but the Language Police side of my brain seems to have gone on furlough.  People are going to use cute, tight imitation words to get their ideas across no matter what the venue, and I have finally come to understand that I can stand in the river all day long, in a righteous effort to change its course, but the river goes where it will.  Here are my first published views on chatspeak.

I am moved to revisit chatspeak because after watching the new version of Alice (in Wonderland) once more, and comparing it with the original animated version, I remembered that the big blue caterpillar was using chatspeak when he asked Alice, “O R U?”… and that was in 1947! 

Image: svmomblog.typepad.com

When it comes to writing in dialect, something I do not recommend unless you are very sure of yourself, perhaps some of the clearest resources (and examples) are Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.  These are easily some of the best, and perhaps most copied, forms of dialect in prose you will find.

What do Chatspeak and Dialect have to do with each other?  For that matter, what do they have to do with the Daily Writer’s Challenge?  Only this:

Both are strong examples of non-standard English used in writing.  Both convey the intended meaning while being a bit obscure.  Both can be useful in the extreme, when used on purpose.  Accidental, or unthinking misuse of either form is weak writing.  …and in both cases you must be exacting in use.

Today’s challenge is to use chatspeak or dialect in a short paragraph.  Keep in mind that neither should appear in narration at any time, except in the case where the narrator is a character.  Also remember that the narrator never misspells for the same reason.

Ready?  Get set… Write!

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3 responses to “Remembering Chatspeak – and Dialect

  1. Well, I can think of two good reasons why I might use chatspeak to advantage:
    1. My comments would be brief.
    2. I might get away with swearing occasionally.
    But I checked up the list of ‘abbreviations’, mainly to find out what L8R meant, and I’m just glad I don’t have to pay you by the minute, or the word, for these comments.
    Was going to short-form ” I can’t go there”, but I was afraid you wouldn’t understand. I don’t know – could I get away with writing “gobbledegook”, as a way of meeting the challenge, and get away with it? By the way that “g” word was a chatspeak, and I challenge you to figure out what I said. Honestly, if you can decode it I promise you that you’ll find it a ‘revelation’! grin grin.

  2. OMG, RS . . .

    U R 1 2 C!!!

    TTYL!

    xoxoxo

    • I actually understood the ‘dialect’ without having to go to the dictionary. The next step to take with language, would be I guess, to speak in a dialect which could not be fashioned and encoded within dictionary or encyclopedia
      OMG (swearing here) – would that be speaking in tongues….. My irony is getting away with me again, It’s because I’m still an actress, and can’t help but play the characters I am reading and studying…..Therefore, in the future when anyone is insulted, or anything, I’ll simply point them in the direction of the particular philosopher I’m reading. I should be able to stay out of trouble that way….(hopefully) grin grin..

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