Unabridged article first published in Issue 21 of Salford Student Direct
A pox on thy kin, foul blaggards! Thou art nothing but a plague-ridden bugbear! You rapscallion, you!
These are just a few of the insults that, were we living in a time where Medieval English was used, would be ever so common to us today. Why aren’t they, however? Well, to put it simply, it’s because language evolves, and thank goodness it does!
Why, then, were so many people up in arms and crying about ‘the children’ when the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) decided to include ‘initialisms’ such as ‘OMG’, ‘lol’, ‘fyi’, and ‘imho’ into their publication, and in turn, the English language? And it wasn’t just the elderly complaining about such insertions to the language. People were exclaiming about the failing standards already in schools and how this would surely have a further negative effect. Well, if you want to go back and speak ‘good old fashioned’ English, be my guest. But you’ll be subjected to weird looks when you use insults such as those above.
Maybe it’s just the linguist within me, but surely we are not the minority who are rejoicing at this evaluation of modern terms entering, finally, into our standard lexicon? I say ‘modern’ terms, but it’s interesting to point out that through research completed by the OED, it has found that OMG has actually been recorded in use since 1917, the earliest example of which being in a formal letter. FYI has retained the same use and meaning since 1941, and perhaps our seniors are less accepting of the modern use of ‘lol’ because in their day, the 1960s, it was an acronym for ‘little old lady’.
Like it or not, these words are in use and have migrated from just the odd facebook message and e-mail into verbal communication. These acronyms have a cultural status within our language now, and that is why it is so beneficial for the OED to enter them into the records.
Additions to a language can only make it more open and viable, it is the depletions that you must be worried about, which is why I fail to see what the outcry is about. These acronyms are not replacing anything, they are additions to the other words already contained within our language. Further to that, if you don’t like it, you’re not being forced to use them, just to acknowledge that a vast majority of the culturally grown Britons do; the future leaders, teachers, and doctors of Britain. Prejudice and prescriptive attitudes have no place within language development, so well done to the OED for recognising this, where other language regulators *cough* L‘Académie Française *cough* have fallen into a time shift between the language they want to be used, and the language used by the rebellious population.
Furthermore, people should be happy. At long last they can use up those random scrabble letters and still play within the rules! Although, with the highest score available on a normal tiles alone being 9, it’s not too much to get excited about, but it would certainly beat my usual 0.