Summary of John Humphrys

In a rather humorous essay, John Humphrys presents the argument that the act of texting actually causes a degradation of the English language as we know it due to its use of abbreviations and terminologies which obscure the meaning of the message sent to the uninitiated.

He presents rather interesting points of circumstantial evidence such as the loss of hyphens to 16,000 words in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) and the way in which his word processing programs converts colons, dashes and brackets to an automatic smiley face. He points out that the convenience of texting has resulted in a culture of abbreviation and misspelling wherein the sheer proliferation of people texting has in effect caused a cascading trend of ever increasingly horrid English usage.

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While Humphrys does go on to say that he understands that languages do change over time, especially the English language which in his words is “infinitely adaptable”, the fact remains that for Humphrys the future generation that will come to inherit its usage may relegate it to a state of emoticons and abbreviations which is far from the heights of literary excellence that English has reached in the past with the works of Shakespeare, J.R.R Tolkien and Stephen King.

As such, despite acknowledging the necessity of modern day styles of communication Humphrys disparages the loss of traditional grammar and sentence construction by this continuing trend of convenience in which abbreviation and grammatical butchering are a norm rather than a rarity.

Introduction

Throughout his essay Humphrys presents arguments related to improper grammatical context, absurd sentence construction as well as a general sense that texting produces sentences that are just plain hard to read and are about as far from normal English as the Earth is to the Sun.

He combines these arguments into a method that attempts to justify the main thrust of this essay which states that the act of texting has been ruining the English language. It is rather interesting to note that when examining the context of his arguments it can be seen that Humphrys’ position is one based on what can be considered the context of the “old guard”.

This implies that his observations are based on a preconceived notion of what English should be like based on his past experiences and as such all arguments he formulates can be categorized as being due to what he believes is the “proper” way of utilizing the English language.

Unfortunately, Humphrys’ arguments are nonsensical, deluded and attempt to create connections from seemingly unconnected events in order to justify what he perceives to be a problem that in reality isn’t a problem at all.

Texting and Established Literature

First and foremost it must be established that the act of texting itself has in no way actually impacted actual written literature. In his initial argument Humphrys connects the loss of the hyphen to 16,000 words in the Oxford English Dictionary to texting due its system of using shortcuts in messages sent.

This initial argument and its connection to texting is rather fallacious since it neglects to take into account the years of literary change that have occurred in the past 3 decades that have changed the way in which people write English.

For example, a cursory examination of modern day books written by authors such as J.K. Rowling, Stephen King and Timothy Zahn show little if any use of hyphens throughout the entire story. Moving onto older novels such as those written by J.R.R Tolkien and Isaac Asimov next to no hyphens are also seen. In fact, when examining academic research papers which span the past 2 decades next to no hyphens can be seen as well.

What must be understood is that the use of hyphens is an outdated literary device that has been going out of style for the past several years and as such it comes as no surprise that its use has been progressively eased out of the Oxford English Dictionary. There is no connection whatsoever to texting and in fact the argument of connecting hyphens to texting is absurd at best.

Sentence Construction and the Modern Era

Secondly, it must also be noted that at the present sentence construction in the English language has largely gone unchanged. While it may be true that people are utilizing shorter and more concise sentences the reason behind this is due to the current fast paced modern culture that we find ourselves in.

From eating to travel, people want things done efficiently and quickly and as such it comes as no surprise that this has spilled over into aspects related to communication. People merely want to communicate faster and as such having a few grammatical liberties in doing so is a rather small sacrifice when taking into account the largely instantaneous ways in which communication has evolved at the present.

Despite all this, if you were to ask a person on the street in any English speaking country to write a short paragraph about anything in particular you would find that “text speak” (the language of texting) rarely if ever appears on such a written work. The English language as we know it has not been affected in the manner in which Humphrys says it has, in fact it has largely gone unchanged with texting being just another means of communication, nothing more nothing less.

Conclusion

Based on what has been presented so far it can be seen that I consider Humphrys to be deluded, nonsensical and a man guilty of making connections out of nothing. Texting has not affected the main bulk of the English language, it was not responsible for the loss of the hyphen and people can generally write a paragraph, story or even a novel without utilizing “text speak”.

His views are nothing more than that of a member of the “old guard” in that he perceives English to be changing in the wrong direction based on texting but in fact there have been other factors such as the ease of communication and changes in general writing habits that have been largely responsible for the supposed changes he perceives.