Don’t kill the word

We are pleased to have RK Kuppurao, a veteran blogger with 250+ 280+ posts, write a post on this blog. Please encourage him with your comments. – Sukumar & Ganesh

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wenz d lst tym U rED gud eng? dont u tnk we ll shd taK mor tym 2 read w@ we read d wA dey shd B? w@ posibly justifies dis crunch of tym, nt 2 mention murdA of lang?

Where have the words gone? Where has the story gone? Where has the context gone?

As opposed to reading a story or have somebody having a plain conversation, we have lost ourselves in the hype of telegraphic communication. As technologies become advanced, sophisticated and affordable, it should allow for relaxed communication. By relaxed, I mean use of analogies, metaphors, comparisons etc…Because it is then possible to live the moment, reflect on your experience of life, reflect on the author’s (or the speaker’s) experience of life, have a “wah” moment and build mutual rapport – either interactive (speaking-listening) or non-interactive (reading).

Instead, we have given ourselves to believing that we don’t have time, words are expensive, story-tellers are boring and have permanently taken on the “cut to the chase” attitude.

SMS for example is great but has made people forget the beauty of words and sentences…kids have forgotten to spell words correctly.

Twitter helps make statements, but you can’t justify your statements, you cannot provide a build-up, you cannot say a story…because 160 is the limit….your urge to shrink your words increases, as the remaining characters approach zero…sometimes when you are done getting the message out of your system and find the remaining characters are “-14”, my gawd – the things we do to trim it down 🙂

You might say one shouldn’t be tweeting in that case. Now, who do you think is going to spend time reading a ¾ page blog on it? People want it faster, people want the summary – coz that is the only way they can swallow more. They want to be following 246 people on Twitter and read that many more tweets than read a well-written blog.

If I’d noticed how quickly social media tools became popular, I should know these are not going to change. We are not going to – all of a sudden – adopt a slow movement.

But all I ask of you is this – next time you write something, type “love” instead of “lv”. Next time you write/tell somebody a story, refrain from cutting to the chase. Remember, we are in no great scarcity of words (or time).

Wl U?

You can read more of RK’s writings on his own blog at kuppurao.com


Comments

  1. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said December 9, 2009, 7:53 pm:

    Thought provoking post RK. As keyboard use has affected our handwriting, i think usage of short messages is going to affect our language if we let it. On the other hand, i am not sure we can avoid using Twitter or SMS either. I think if we are conscious about what we are doing and not let the Word itself get killed, i think we should be okay.

    What do you think we should do to avoid the problem? As you say, yes we can write Love instead of Luv but when we are constrained by space, we are forced to shorten, right? What else should we be doing?

  2. Quote

    Good post RK.

    May be, this presents a business opportunity to develop a parser / translator, which will help the reader get to see the whole version. At least, if not a complete solution, this helps the reader at least to get to see the complete message.

  3. Quote

    Very true,these days short messages are popular than a lengthy liner.
    I agree with Sukumar,When we have space constraints,we are made to abridge our messages too.

  4. Quote
    rk (subscribed) said December 9, 2009, 9:24 pm:

    Thanks Sukumar for the comments. I think your question warrants a multi-level answer.

    First part is – given the constraints (of space, number of words etc…), what else should we be doing to not kill the word.

    Second part is – should we invent tools allow for words-generous communication. Obviously, I am assuming a much larger role in the eco-system while answering this question, than of just a user of the tools. I am assuming we have the collective power of influencing what these tools must feature, if they are to remove constraints of communication.

    I will try and put together my thoughts around this and post them here.

    Thanks Kumar for your comments. That is a good idea. Can you give a little more structure to your idea?

    Thanks Annapoorani for your comments. Can you think of ways to beat the constraints and come up with an alternative?

  5. Quote
    pk.karthik said December 9, 2009, 10:09 pm:

    It was brilliant Rk.It is really thought provoking .These are my 2 cents based on my experience.

    I had a good writing .Now i dont recognise my handwriting in some pages when i take notes.It has lost its consistency.So I have to write 10 pages on different days ,each page will appear different.

    I had a good vocabulary,that has gone down as thanks to google incase i forget a word or all I need to do is type and bingo ,I get the word required along with the synonyms ,antonyms and the thesaurus.

    Spelling has become aweful.Thanks to SMS incase i forget a spelling ,all I need to do is type it in short form.

    Lastly memories have become bad .Thanks to to Cellphone,Ipod,Iphone and so on none of the numbers which was easy to recall have now vanished .People may ask me why do you need to remember numbers .One i forgot my debit card pin when i needed the most.Two I was stuck in a situation recently where my mobile went Kaput ,Ipod did not have charge and I needed to call some one and it was stuck in the snow.The old me would have either remembered the number or would have been able to recall a number who would have guided me.In this case I had to call up the only number I remember ,my house number @ chennai,then my mom had to call up the person’s parents to get his US number and then I call him up.
    So i haver started wondering if these gadgets are a boon or bane:(

    PS:I made a conscious decision to type words in full and oh boy it was tough .I had to google to confirm couple of my word spellings 🙂

  6. Quote

    RK,

    Abslty brllnt wrtg!! – just kidding.

    I am totally with you on this. Even on IM I type fully. On SMS it is easy nowadays with a T9 input.

    I guess if we can slow down we will be able to smell the roses and enjoy the context of words.

    Imagine you boss 10 yrs down the line gets up on stage to appreciate you and say “Grt wrk” and sits down. This shortenning is habit and will evolve into conversation. How many times do we say today “FYI” in personal interaction. I personally feel not too good when someone says ASAP versus “Please get it too me as soon as possible as I am in a hurry”.

    I am a negative technologist and my vote goes to you on this. 🙂 🙂

  7. Quote

    Good post.. We often use the phrase “Adapt to changes”.. I hope that applies to language too.. ultimately words are meant for understanding the object/meaning intended. So what if we use Lv or Love, as long as the user understands. Even if Lv becomes commonly used, let it replace love and become a standard.. Just like thy became those..

    Btw, in one sense, we may move towards chinese/japanese language structure.. ie, moving from words to pictorial representation..

  8. Quote

    Correction in my comment..

    /** Just like thy became those.. **/

    I am not sure of the above.. please forgive if i am wrong..

  9. Quote

    I fully agree with the message..
    I have observed that people who are occupying highly responsible positions in business,politics or ‘entertainment’, and are well educated in English, almost always try to avoid sms lingos even in social media sites…It is clear that frequent use of such lingos will be considered as irresponsible or lack of seriousness in what they convey, even if the medium they use to comment are social networking sites…
    …..I think it is applicable to everyone….
    Tweets only provide a link or else a synopsis of what you want to convey……It’s just another medium and cannot replace but can aid a 3/4 page blog…(guess ie what a survey published in this site itself has shown…correct me if I am wrong).
    The challenge of twitter is we have to reduce what we want to say in 140 words without killing English language….so one should be creative.There are efforts to retell the Mahabharatha on twitter(@epicretold).

  10. Quote
    rk (subscribed) said December 9, 2009, 11:01 pm:

    Thanks Karthik for your comments. This post mainly discusses the shortcomings of content-centric communication, as opposed to context-based communication. You have some great thoughts, but the intent of this post is not to dismiss technology, because it has changed our lives for good. Why dont you write about the thoughts you have?

    Thanks Kumaran for your comments. I like the “smell the roses” metaphor.

    Thanks Senthil for your comments. This is a good alternate view. My earlier point was there is beauty in our languages waiting to be enjoyed (roses waiting to be smelt) which we are under-serving/under-utilizing by telegraphic communication.

    Thanks Arun for your comments. (1) Educated/responsible people avoid truncating their words (2) Truncating reduces seriousness of the message. Both views are insightful. Does that make “not killing the word” an individual responsibility?

  11. Quote
    Ganesh Vaideeswaran said December 10, 2009, 7:43 am:

    RK,

    Nice post. As you say, technology is not the issue. Perhaps it is our changing mindset influenced somewhat by technology. Eventually, it boils down to using the right technology/tool for the right task.

    Twitter, for me, is largely a dynamic bookmarking tool with potential to form online acquaintances. I believe this (value of twitter) has been discussed in another post in this blog – http://www.sastwingees.org/2009/05/13/why-twitter-maybe-at-the-vanguard-of-a-tectonic-shift/. I cannot have a conversation in twitter. Conversation is more than “Yes/No I agree with you” and it should not be limiting. If a particular topic interests me and I see a potential for a conversation that enhances my knowledge, I will take that offline from twitter and maybe use email etc. I use blogs when I find the desire to write on a topic I am ruminating and particularly want others knowledge/take on the subject. Sometimes, it can just be a stress reliever.

    Why am I saying all this – just that I would not want a twitter/SMS vernacular in a blog. And if twitter did not have the 140 character limitation, perhaps the purpose of it is lost.

    I guess I could have simply said, “I agree with your post” ala twitter 😉

  12. Quote
    rk (subscribed) said December 10, 2009, 8:30 am:

    Thanks Ganesh for your comments.

    I have some thoughts (based on what you commented), will share with you offline.

  13. Quote

    Hi RK, thanks for the post. You are raising the right flag at the right time 🙂 I hv to admit though tht I hv already lost it though.
    There are some other things too that we are loosing. Regional language skills. Most of the last generation ppl know their regional lang literature – Poets, Authors etc.. Very few from the current generation do. I attribute it to the increased focus on knowledge & practice of English (in whatever form) for the sake of better jobs & livelihood. A regional lang medium school passout is facing immense pressure these days to get ahead in life.

    But I guess this & the point you have mentioned are the sign of times. We can’t help it. At the end of the day, language is about communicating your ideas in the best possible way making sure no ideas are lost in the process. But a pointer here is to remember about the audience when we send out messages. If the receiving audience is fine with our ways, then I guess it’s ok. I don’t want to type out ‘Your’s affectionately’ anymore while emailing a friend. Cheers! ,urs etc help conveying emotions better. Smileys are so convenient to use. I don’t know of a parallel in the traditional English language to convey the emotion associated with the message in one char/word.

    But as I said,audience is important. Our GenNext is also bringing in the culture to workplaces & beyond. And that’s where it could get real dangerous/damaging. Not understanding the end receiver’s expectations can be disastrous while communicating.

  14. Quote

    RK.. We have to take the cue from indic languages. Indic languages have two distinct forms.. one for the common masses, which will evolve, change as per the needs of the people’s communication. Another is for the scholars, for literature, documentation, scientific and academic purpose, and thus have well defined grammar, asphabets to be strictly followed.

    For example, pragrutham is for the common masses, where people can use as per the convenience… Whereas samskritam is the refined version of the same.

    Similarly in tamil, there is clear distinction of the purpose of the language versions.. Iyal, Isai and Naatakam .. the first one for the common people, second for musical purpose and the third for literature.

    (I dont know about other indic languages.. some one can enlighten)

    I feel, english language lacks such kind of flexibility..

    So, the best solution is to allow the freedom for common people to adapt the words & literals for informal communication, while enforcing the standardised language for documentation, scientific and formal communication.

  15. Quote

    Great post RK. I wonder why this shorthand pratice happening only in english, not in tamil nor telgu nor hindi as far as i know. But we like it or not future gen. going to use this shorthand widely to make us guessing. I think english already differeniate with countries for example, in US color is for colour. My opinion is, lanuage is just to communicate, who cares if it mixed with other language or compressed as long as we are all comfortable it doesn’t matter.

    Subba

  16. Quote
    kumar krishnamurthy said December 10, 2009, 9:07 pm:

    well, the answer lies hereunder

    Olny srmat poelpe can raed tihs. I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! :))

  17. Quote
    rk (subscribed) said December 10, 2009, 9:35 pm:

    Thanks Ranjit for your comments.

    1) Are you saying regional languages do not suffer telegraphic-communications-syndrome as much as English does? Because the way I look at it, this is not a problem of languages or technology. It is of people’s mindsets.
    2) The second part is you are taking a utility mindset of communication (that killing the word is ok as long as receiver understood it). My argument is we repeatedly choose to ignore context and beauty of communication.

    Thanks Senthil for your comments

    You bring a language perspective that is new. Nice.

    Thanks Subba for your comments.

    While language got added as a key dimension to this post, the intent of this discussion (at start) was the lack of context in how we communicate. Problem statement is indifferent to language. We have artifically created for ourselves scarcity of time and words and chosen to dismiss context while communicating.

    Also, on a different note, in reference to Senthil’s comments: I noticed in Indic languages, even the sounds of the words tell us whether it is commonly used by educated/elitist people or illiterate/people. In your own example, try saying “gru” part of “pragrutham”, it sounds coarse, easy and you dont need a trained tongue to pronounce it. On the other hand, the “kri” in “Sanskritam” sounds delicate, perhaps needing some type of training. Same holds good for many differences – “sha”, “ha”, the sound “zha” (tamil / malayalam).

    Sukumar, Any perspective / previous posts on the language dimension?

  18. Quote

    RK,

    I had few chances to accompany with epigraphists and tried to read stone inscriptions in temples. The language used there is spoken tamil, but open to pragrutham too (it may not be samskritam)..

    Also, one of my friend had collected some historic “pattayams”, which is a written record on copper plates. I am giving few examples here, for reference.

    யிப்படிக்கி நடந்துவருங்காலத்தில் யென் வமுசத்தாற் யிதுக்கு விகாதம் சொல்லாமல் சன்னிதானத்துக்கு பயபக்தியாயி நடத்திவைத்தவன் சுகமாயி தனசம்பத்தும் தான்னிய சம்பத்தும் அஷ்டைஸ்வர்யமும் ஆயுளாறோக்கியமும் தேவபிரஸாதமும் குரு பிஸாதமும் மென்மேலும் உண்டாயி கல்லு காவேரி புல்லு பூமி ஆசந்திரார்க்க உள்ளவறைக்கும் பாடகவல்லி சறுவலிங்கமூர்த்தி அகத்தூறம்மன் கடாக்ஷத்துனாலே சுகமாயி யிறுப்பாற்கள். யிந்த சாசனம் பாத்து படித்தபேறும் செவியில் கேட்ட பேறும் சுகமாயி யிறுப்பாற்கள்.”

    Another one..

    நற்குடி நாற்பத்தெண்ணாயிரம் பசுங்குடி பன்னீராயிரம் ஏர்குடி எண்ணாயிரம் காராளர்களைத் தருவிச்சு வைத்து யாபாரஸ்தாளை ஸ்தாபிதம் செய்து கொங்கு இருபத்துநாலுநாட்டுக்குப் பட்டக்காரன் எற்படுத்தி இருபத்தி நாலு பட்டக்காரர்கட்கும் பட்டத்தைச் சூட்டி ஒரு தலை போனால் தங்கத்திலே ஏழு தலை பத்துப்பொன் அபராதம் வாங்கும்படியாய் ஆக்ஞாபிச்சுவிட்டு ஸ்தலங்கள் தோறும் பரிபாலனம் பண்ணிக் கொண்டு காசியில் கெங்கா ஸ்நானம் பண்ணுவதற்கு மூணு ராஜக்களும் போய்விட்டார்கள்.

    Please note கெங்கா .. approximately, these pattayams are supposed to dated b/w 12th century to 16th century..

    One more one..

    இந்தப்படிக்கு நாங்கள் கொடுத்து வருகிறோம் என்று அர்த்தநாரீஸ்வரர் சந்நிதியில் வாக்குத் தத்தம் பண்ணிக்கொடுத்தோம் சுவாமியார் குலசேகரபட்டருக்கு சிவிகை சத்திரை தாமரை கத்தி கடோரி பூச்சக்கரக்கொடை விருதுகள் எல்லாம் கொடுத்து மிரவணையும் செய்து எங்கள் வமிசபாரம் பரியமாக எட்டுக்கோத்திரத்தாரும் குலகுருவாயிருந்து வருஷப்பிரதி எங்களுக்கு தீட்சையும் பிரசாதமும் கொடுத்து பாதகாணிக்கையும் பெத்துக் கொண்து வருகிறது என்று நாங்கள் அனைவரும் கூடி எழுதிக்கொடுத்த செப்பேடு பட்டயம்.

  19. Quote
    Arun (subscribed) said December 11, 2009, 1:34 am:

    Thought provoking! Is the focus of your blog limited to only word compressions? Many times these days I’m appalled at the way we are ‘bulletising’ what we want to communicate. In these, I feel, the beauty of paragraphs are lost.

  20. Quote

    RK,

    Nice post. I had to read the first 2 lines twice to understand what was being said. You may call me behind current times. But then I prefer to use ‘complete’ words rather than short forms.

    I do SMS but then always use T9 and I make it a point not to add words to the in-built dictionary. I wonder how many people who sms even know how to write using T9 (I have taught my sister’s college going friends a few years back on how to use T9). With the current age when SMS’es are literally free, I think we can all afford to write complete words.

    Previously there was blog and now there is Twitter. Now we are able to manage within 160 characters. Times are changing. So maybe time will come when we will be publishing our thoughts within 100 characters using only legitimate words. (I glanced through my Twitter page to check if there are people using short forms and surprisingly I could find none)

  21. Quote

    RK,

    What I meant was, akin to the OSI layers in the computer networks, if we have an interpreter / translator kind of application, which is an extension or replacement to the current SMS Inbox. We could have it read and interpret and translate all the short form words (wrds) and deliver a full form version to the end user.

    Like wise, we could have the user have T9 like inputting to compose a long form message and the reverse happens to get the msg to a short form before it gets transmitted.

    Quite achievable, but needs some more work. Would you agree?

    Thanks
    Kumar

  22. Quote
    rk (subscribed) said December 14, 2009, 9:28 pm:

    Thanks Arun for your comments. Yes, I have also thought that bulletizing takes the context out. But on the other hand, bulletizing has done more good than bad 🙂 Don’t you agree?

    Thanks Ramya for your comments. I believe looking at this problem solely in the context of “word truncation” provides 1 dimension. But it needs to be viewed in conjunction with our mindset to by-pass context.

    Thanks Kumar for your response. That is a good idea – similar to “auto-summarize” feature we have in Word? So I write a 600-word blog, you can choose to read it as it is or a 100-word summary or a 100-char tweet?

  23. Quote

    Yes, only it should work the other way for expanding a shorter form also. And similar to T9 input, the expanded version should be a feature option.

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