Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Personal Letter: An Endangered Species

I love technology--technology makes things convenient--but I wish technology had left the personal letter alone. Although it’s a long time since I used a pen and paper to write to anyone, I am beginning to lament the personal letter’s passing.

I used to write letters to friends and family, but not any more. Like the telegraph before it, the personal letter is passing into history, replaced by email and other instant forms of communication. Sacrificed at the altar of technology, it is no match for the speed, brevity, and ease of communication that is email.

It’s a long time since I looked in my mail box and saw anything among the bills, junk mail, and discount coupons that I wanted to rush to open. You might not get excited about receiving an email, but receiving a personal letter--envelope and all--is exciting. Go on, I dare you to admit it!

So what does letter writing reveal that email doesn’t? Certainly part of it is being able to use a good pen. Using some nice stationery and different color inks add a little flair that email cannot match. Then there’s the writing itself. Words—animated by a breath of life and written by hand have the power to impress. Visually sensual, they create a favorable impression on the mind, adding to the overall aesthetic. It might be easier to say the same thing by email, but it’s that personal touch that makes all the difference.

A personal letter conveys a sense of humanity--pen and ink form a connection that electronic communication cannot match. Writing a letter is a different process--it lets you know that the author took the time to think the words through.

I like email for its ease of use, and having got this far down the screen, the Delete, Cut and Paste, and Spellcheck features have become my friends. Email is certainly instantaneous; it is at the same time impersonal.

In another generation perhaps letter writing will be viewed as an archaic form of communicating from a past time. If that’s so, its impact on history cannot be overstated. Consider: The historical personal correspondence of presidents, kings and queens, prime ministers, and other historical figures just wouldn’t be the same with email.

One of my friends still sends me personal notes in the mail on the occasion of a holiday, departure on a trip, or arrival back from one. I love to receive them.

Nostalgia aside, time marches on and I fully intend to march with it; however, I have resolved to treat myself to a good pen, and the next time I want to tell a friend or relative more than "Hello-How are you?-What are you doing tonight?" I’ll write them a letter. I might not get back into the habit on a regular basis, but I am resolved not to lose touch with it.

Now, just how much does a stamp cost these days?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Save Our Language! (LOL)

News reports that text messaging is creeping into mainstream use likely has language purists everywhere running for the hills, rolling their eyes in horror. And those fearful types who are always first to warn of a coming (linguistic) apocalypse will surely do so again at the drop of a pen.

But wait a minute. Is this really such a “threat”? I don’t think so. Though not adctd2txt I certainly love to use it. As a means of saying what I want to say in as few keystrokes as I can say it, it fits the bill perfectly.

Unheard of and unused just a few short years ago, text messaging has gone from a standing start to being pretty much indispensable for many people. And yet if the doomsayers are to be believed, it is now poised to wreak destruction on the long established written rules of the English language. Well I’m not buying it.

In the short term I think there will likely be more errors in grammar and punctuation among school kids, as well as an increasing use of txt talk in conversations, but having faced down linguistic threats of all kinds; having adapted to new influences; and having survived many centuries largely intact, I think the English language is more than ready to hold its own in the long term. And as someone who finds secret pleasure in browsing through a book on punctuation or grammar I’m all for that.

I can’t see the English sentence structure changing too much just because it’s easier to send a text message enquiring “WYD?” to find out what your friend is doing. In any case, it’s easier on the fingers and thumbs.

The rules of language, built up over the centuries, are not going to crumble because of texting. OMG! I certainly hope not. Time will tell, but AFAIC txt msging is gr8!

EOM :)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Just a Few Words...

My intent when thinking about starting a blog was to comment on the myriad ways in which the English language is used—be it sublime or just plain silly.

But after a little light-hearted consideration, I concluded that starting a blog was really all about me, and that blogs are self serving. Undeterred by this revelation I decided to start one anyway, invite readers to respond, and see what direction it takes.

I promise to refrain from recording a running commentary on my life; rather, I’ll just share some thoughts from time to time.

And even if I have nothing particularly interesting to say, I’m always interested in what other people are thinking and doing, and what's happening in the world.

So here it is:

Thanks for stopping by - a real post will appear soon.