'Newspeak' for a new generation

Published: Sunday, Oct. 4 2015 2:12 p.m. MDT

George Orwell, George Orwell, "Nineteen Eighty-Four" (Deseret News archives)

It’s eerie how sometimes an author can predict the future. Granted, it can be years, even decades, before the prediction comes true, but there is something weird when an exaggeration becomes truth.

Look at George Orwell’s novel "1984." Although we are almost 30 years past the actual year 1984, some of the things Orwell wrote about are happening in today’s generations. He wrote about language becoming a waste of time, and although a work of fiction, he predicted a future destruction of words and created a new language, "newspeak," where words are stripped down and left with barely any meaning.

Fast-forward to today and you can see that destruction occurring. We aren’t at such a complete loss in our language, but we are seeing it more and more. This phenomenon isn’t newspeak, but could be called text-talk — and it is especially a problem with teenagers and young adults.

Texting is a quick way to tell someone exactly what is on your mind without ever having a single word leave your mouth. To make it even quicker, words can be spelled as they sound, with numbers and symbols, and whole phrases can be typed as abbreviations.

The problem comes when someone uses these words in a context other than texting, like an important email, a term paper or even in speech.

Has time become so valuable that oral communication is too long-winded and needs to be shortened?

Take, for instance, this new word circulating through the population’s youth: “That’s totes fine.”

When first heard, this word can be confusing. Maybe the person speaking is talking about a bucket or box used for storage, or possibly about luggage.

But then think about the text-talk rule of shortening words and it becomes clear that the word "totes" is replacing the already overused word "totally."

According to urbandictionary.com, totally is a word “used by ditzy young girls that means definitely or for sure.” Do people really think that saying "totes" is going to make them seem suave and sophisticated?

Urbandictionary.com also says that a person takes about 0.14 seconds to speak a syllable, and that some people use the word "totally" on average about 190 times a day. Saying "totes" instead of "totally" saves them about 26.6 seconds a day. Think of all the things they can do with that extra 26.6 seconds in a day.

It’s important that the difference between text-talk and an actual text message is clear to young people today. Not only will they seem unprofessional when using text-talk outside of a text message, but they will seem lazy, immature and unintelligent.

And slowly, if text-talk continues to find its way outside the confines of the cellphone, Orwell’s language destruction prediction will be totes true.

Chelsea Miles grew up in Holladay, Utah, and is currently studying English Education at Brigham Young University - Idaho.

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