My academic concern with English Language ended with my A Levels
in 2012. Nevertheless, my career revolves around language use and its subtle
nuances, and the way different groups of people use language across different
time periods is something that fascinates me.
Bloggers, journalists and other social media influences are, I
think, largely responsible for influencing the language used on the internet.
If they aren't starting language trends, they're perpetuating them and ensuring
that they are exposed to large audiences. In the same way that we pick up
linguistic idiosyncrasies when hanging out with a friend from a different city,
for example, we instinctively begin to emulate the writing styles of our
It goes without saying that the existence of the Oxford English Dictionary
as an institution which governs language and words which are and are not deemed
'legitimate', and the race and class issues embedded within that, is
problematic. That is a separate discussion; love or hate the OED, its 2015 word
of the year is the crying laughing emoji. As the year comes to a close, I've
been thinking about people who believe that the 'internet generation', armed
with our emojis and imperfect grammar, are 'ruining the English
language'. To put my point concisely: they are incredibly wrong.
When writing a formal email, letter or essay, our grammar and
spelling are accurate. When writing blog posts, we use full sentences with a
more casual tone; with the odd ‘lmao’, ‘tbh’ or ‘imo’ thrown in to express
this. When tweeting, we use ‘u’ and ‘ur’ for effect, as well as to save on
In many ways, excessive emoji use could be just another language
trend, akin to typing like thiis or even tHiS in the eArlY 2000s. Perhaps I
feel differently because I’m much older now than I was when I was editing my
Myspace profile, but I think that we are past that. Us ~~~millennials~~~ (did I
use enough ‘~’ to demonstrate self-awareness about how embarrassing the term
‘millennials’ is?) don’t use emojis, abbreviations and recently coined words
out of a lack of other options. I very consciously choose 'u' over 'you',
depending on context, to convey a different tone. A heart-eyes emoji, flames
emoji, or ‘omg!!!!’ on your mate’s selfie is just as important as your auntie’s
‘you look beautiful x x’ comment on your Facebook profile pic.
Moreover and perhaps more importantly, I don’t believe that
language can in fact be ‘ruined’. Language should be non-prescriptive. Perhaps
this renders my first point redundant, but who doesn’t like a little
There’s no real goal in this extremely un-academic essay, save for
the fact that I haven’t written one in a while. Language cannot be ruined. Being
able to adapt one’s language use to suit a context is a mark of advanced
language use, not the opposite. So screw the h8rs, tbh, keep doing u, and let me know what you think about
an emoji being 2015’s ‘word of the year’.