I Don’t Speak Licence Plate …

And neither do you, most likely. At least you probably don’t speak it in the literal sense, because there is no such language. But I don’t use “license plate” when writing or texting either. Maybe you do, but to each their own, eh? The quote I have chosen for today’s post is … It takes less time to do things right, than to explain why you did it wrong ~ Henry Wadsworth Longstop-texting-mefellow

Today’s post is a result of a conversation that I had with a friend regarding texting. You see, this friend had texted me to arrange a meeting to discuss some personal business that we wanted to discuss, and her text had some of the more common words(?) in it like “r” and “u” and so on. You get my drift. For me that is a huge red flashing light, just like the one at the nuclear plant just before it goes into meltdown. Or at least it used to be, before I began writing this blog.


Alright, I know I am a stickler when it comes to doing something right the first time, but that’s just me. And that’s the way I have always felt about the art of writing, and in particular the use of the English language. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a linguist nor am I a professional writer. It’s just that I view writing as a beautiful way to communicate or tell a story. I just don’t understand why people insist on using textspeak. To me, the art of communication and proper use of the English language are wondrous things, and why anybody would feel the need to save time when communicating just floors me. There’s too much saving time when we communicate these days, as evidenced by the fact that almost everybody you see these days has their eyes glued to that little 5.5 inch screen known as their mobile phone. Our world has become a world where instant gratification has become the norm, and saving time takes precedence over proper form and function, which means a person can achieve their goal of gratification more … instantaneously when it comes to communication. I got to thinking about all of this, which in my recently retired state, turned out to be somewhat dangerous.

So I got to thinking. Just how much time does someone save when they abbreviate almost every word in a text? I figured that one can Google pretty much anything these days, as evidenced by the little circle I began when I started to do my research for this blog. So I began my quest in Google.

  • Google … “what is the average typing speed of the average person.” Hmmm … I got 309,000,000 results in .82 seconds! I decided it would take me far longer to research all 309,000,000 results than the .82 seconds it took Google to retrieve them, so I chose the first result, which seemed reasonable.
  • Result … “The average person types between 38 and 40 words per minute (WPM), which translates into between 190 and 200 characters per minute (CPM). However, professional typists type a lot faster — on average between 65 and 75 WPM.”
  • Deduction … Voila! So far so good. The result of my research as follows, and I looked at the research this way. The average person types between 38 and 40 words per minute, so I went on the low side and decided to use 38 words per minute.

OK, now I needed to know the average length of a word. Good thing Google gives you suggestions on what you are asking for, it’s very intuitive that way.

  • Google … “what is the average length of a word in the English language” (per the intuitive suggestion of Google). 43,800,000 results in .58 seconds! Holy cow, Batman!
  • Result … “5.1 letters … Average word length was counted in different languages though sometimes the data don’t match. As for the English language, it makes 5.1 letters [17, 18], as for the Russian language it makes 5.28 [19].” Hmmm, sometimes the data don’t match? Does Google need some lessons here in the conveying of proper context in their results? Beginning to ponder about the validity of researching with Google now.”
  • Deduction … Since I didn’t care about the Russian statement, I took Google’s research and used an average length of a word in the English language as being 5.1 letters long. So, if we apply the average person’s speed of 38 WPM which is on the low end, it takes 1.58 seconds to type a word, times  … whoops!

Uh oh. I now needed the average number of  words in a text. 

  • Google … “what is the average size of a text message.” Wow, 187,000,000 results in .53 seconds!
  • Result … “The average text message length is around 7 words. “Not sure if I’m going out later.” That text is about how long the average text is.” Very cool! Google even gave me an example of a 7 word text message, and in proper English! I’m kind of liking this intuitive thing when it comes to Google.
  • Deduction … taking my above pre-determined average person’s speed of 38 WPM which is on the low end, it takes 1.58 seconds to type a word, times 7 words in the average text message equals 11.05 seconds to type that text message.
  • (60/38)*7=11.05 seconds to type the average text message.

OK, so how many seconds required per letter required for that same 7 word text message? I didn’t need Google here, and used my research above to come to my deduction. Those same 7 words, having an average length of 5.1 letters equals a total of 35.7 letters. This means that to type that same 11.05 second text message of 7 words with 5.1 letters each for a total of 35.7 letters, it takes a whopping .309 seconds per letter … 11.05/(7*5.1)=.309 seconds per letter. Now I was getting somewhere!

On to the text messaging assumptions! I now had the average person’s typing speed (38 WPM), the average length of a word in the English language (5.1 letters), the average size of a text message (7 words), and the length of time it took to type each letter in a text message (.309 seconds).

  • Google … “average length of a word in text speak.” Less results here, only 88,400 results in .58 seconds, but not what I was looking for. Google was slowing down too, just like I was. Interestingly, the top entry in this search was the same result as what I had Googled earlier for the average length of a word in the English language, and Google was telling me once again that “sometimes the data don’t match.” FFS Google! Oooops, now I was expressing myself by using one of the more common texting vulgarities.
  • Google “average length of a word when using text.” Unsatisfactory results. Google thought I was asking what the average length of my text was, which is getting pretty personal in my opinion and is none of their business. Desperation setting in, so I did the North American thing to do here and I figured I would have to try a different approach.

Using my limited and diminishing retired brain capacity I deduced that the use of texting often involves taking a word and removing the vowels when texting. Kind of like the use of the “r” for are, and “u” for … damn. I guess not, Turns out the use of “u” for you involves the removal of a vowel and a consonant. Or is “y” sometimes a vowel? I decided not. There goes my brilliant deduction! OK, I told myself to just breathe for a moment and counted to ten before …

  • Google … “how many vowels in the average word”.  I got 2,010,000 results in .58 seconds … better than the previous research, but …
  • Result … “Of the top 5000 words, the average length is 6.4556 letters and the median is 6 letters. The standard deviation in length for the population is 2.35 letters, so the median is reasonably close to the average. The average number of total vowels is 2.0298, so the average number of consonants per word is 4.426.” Shit! Now what do I do? All my previous research where I discovered that then average length of a word was 5.1 letters and now this search was telling me there were 6.44556 letters per word? WTF? Ooops …

Braun capacity

So I stepped away from the computer for a while. My Mom used to ask me this question in the brain graphic beside us. Sometimes she would say it as a question, sometimes she would say it as a declaration while shaking her head slowly back and forth. One of the many things that I miss that from my Mom, now that she is gone. She had a way of keeping me centred. Besides, at this point my brain was starting to hurt with all this back and forth and all these mathematical equations I had to use to figure out how much time a “texter” would actually save using textspeak over the proper Queen’s English. I took a break until the next morning and did some real world stuff like mowing the lawn and putting the patio furniture away.


Fast forward to the next morning, Lawn mowed, patio furniture put away, I even got the garden weeded for one last time before winter, hopefully. I re-read my blog preparation from the day before, and was feeling pretty good about what I had so far. Now all I had to do was figure out which mathematical equations I needed to properly convey my message to the world. In case you hadn’t guessed, I am not a mathematician either. After re-reading my blog preparation, I decided that I should maybe change my opening quotation, and look for something regarding texting. And a funny thing happened after formulating my next question. Enter Google.


  • Google … “quotes on texting.” Google gave me 59,900,00 results in .36 seconds! Hmmmm … respectable.
  • Result … “Texting Quotes – BrainyQuote.” Click!
  • Result … “Texting is fingered speech. Now we can write the way we talk. – John McWhorter.” CLICK! ((thinks to myself, I think I am going to like this guy!))

But a funny thing happened here. It turns out that John Hamilton McWhorter V is an American academic and linguist who is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, where he teaches linguistics, American studies, philosophy, and music history. And he has done a TED talk. Click.


Here’s where my searches ended. I carefully stepped off my soapbox so as not to turn an ankle (there’s my old age again) and decided that it just doesn’t matter, people. What did I learn?

  • The biggest thing I learned was that, although I have always embraced diversity of religion, race, gender, culture etc., I was embracing a new kind of diversity, Acquired diversity. Acquired diversity centers on traits you gain from experience. And as evidenced by the above post, this was quite an experience.
  • There are many words in the world of textspeak, and they aren’t all just 1 to 3 letters long. And they aren’t just words with only the vowels removed.
  • I learned, after asking Google to give me how many times Robin said … “Holy (insert proper English word here), Batman!” … that Google doesn’t know how many times Robin said that. Or maybe that was Wikipedia?
  • I learned once again, why proper English is important. I always knew this, because … It also strengthens your business relationships through improved written and spoken communication. Having good language skills conveys credibility in a specific workplace environment. Most people underestimate the importance of mastering English.” Yup, this is true, but I am thinking now that good texting can also be important.
  • I learned that writing is a way of painting a picture, but so is texting. I always knew this about writing, but what I really learned is that textspeak is just a different way of painting that picture. Imagine if all artists used the same brush, the same type of paint, the same colour, or used the same tree as a subject to paint their picture of a tree? Where’s the diversity in that?
  • Time is precious which is pretty obvious from my research above. Maybe all these texters are really onto something? Hopefully the time any of you invested in reading this post was time well spent.
  • I learned that I need to apologize to my friend. She can use textspeak all she wants, but she may have to explain herself until I become more fluent in it. Practice can make perfect though, eh?

It turns out that I learned a lot. To each their own.






ps … Stay tuned for my next post on the average time it takes for Google to give you an answer to a question, to be followed by how many times Robin said “Holy (insert word of choice here), Batman!” Hmmmmmm …


Maybe not. I’ll let all of you do your own research. It’s good for your brain … iykwim …

9 thoughts on “I Don’t Speak Licence Plate …

  1. I had a really good chuckle over this because it is oh so true. Our texts have become so slang. A very good read to brighten up an aweful day. Thanks keith. I am looking forward to more.

    • Not pointing any fingers here, Shelley, but there are others that, although they may not have initially have inspired me to write this post, used text speak when communicating with me when I abhorred it. Times have changed. I have now officially gained newly acquired diversity. Thanks for saying thanks!

  2. Loved your article. I grew up when real letter writing was the thing, and it was such a joy to receive a piece of mail from the postperson, and then you had to talk to the postperson a few minutes as part of getting a letter, exchanging pleasantries. There was not so much advertising mail in those days, so you rarely dealt with that. And when you managed to get inside where you would read your letter, you would not just sit down and read it, but might fix yourself a cup of tea or some coffee, even perhaps the little mid-morning snack, and then and only then did you sit down.

    Opening the letter with a letter opener very carefully so as not to disturb or potentially damage anything inside it, your mind filled with anticipation at hearing from a good friend or a loved one. You read the words slowly, for each word was something the person had taken the time to create for you, just for you. You lived the words as you read them, and when you got to the end of the letter, you felt as though you had eaten a delicious meal. You refolded the mail and put it carefully back into its envelope, and soon it would appear again to be shared with other relatives or friends who also know the person. This was not just reading a letter; it was a celebration of life shared between others who were like -minded. For just that time that it took to read the letter, all listening were transformed into another world, another culture, another time. and perhaps another world. What a miracle it felt like to be able to communicate with others who may have lived in another town, another city or state, or even another country.

    And then there were the stamps. For mail that required stamps from overseas, we studied the stamps carefully, remembering what each one looked like and trying to remember if we had ever seen one like any of them before. Stamps were carefully peeled off the envelopes and children and others pasted them into their stamp collections that they would share and perhaps trade with others. Letters often were not thrown away, but would be saved as if we might enjoy reading them at another time in the future.

    But it didn’t stop there. We would talk to other neighbors who were not able to enjoy the letters first-hand about having heard from loved ones and good friends. It was a world where the news traveled slowly, that everyday news of babies born, a new job, a good crop for the year or perhaps a new pet or winning a prize at the county fair. The small things had importance, for they were what life was about. Today with cars that go to 90 MPH in mere seconds, and people traveling so far to get to work each day, children who never really get to spend quality time with their parents, and families who do not know what it is to live in one house for more than a single generation, we have lost much. We can tell you what TV show has been on for how long and who is in it, but we cannot tell you how who Uncle George is related to or how old he is.

    George Orwell, author of the science fiction book, 1984, had it right.

    • Your words ring so true, Anne. The way you describe those times when we used to write letters and send them via post brought back the memories in nostalgic waves to me. Although, like you I too miss those times, I learned through my research and from a Readers Digest that a friend gave to me after reading my post (the same friend that inspired me to write the post actually, go figure), that the phrase OMG is actually over a hundred years old!I My friend keeps driving the point home that it is OK to use text speak, even after I succumbed to the pressure and changed my mind! Thanks for writing, it means a lot to me to hear from other fellow bloggers such as you whose blogs I admire and follow …

      • Thank you most kindly for the nice comments. Yes, there are a lot of good things about using the computer. For example, we can practically get a college degree’s worth of knowledge without ever having to attend school even at an online university, and there is virtually nothing that we cannot find if we search using the right words and other related words that will help us to find it. I used to do typesetting, layout and paste-up in back in the day, and used even the old typesetting machine where you had to type a line, take the count and then enter it for each line you had typed in order to justify pages. And research was carrying so many books home to pour through, something that took hours, and often days of real labor. I worked at GE in Phoenix on one of those room-sized computers and we had to use keypunch cards to do programming. What was considered “mass storage” was such a thing of fascination, and now the smallest physical computer probably has more storage in it than that room-full of one computer! So it is a strange new world we are in. I love factoids as a friend who sends them to me all the time calls them, so I enjoyed reading the bit about OMG. It’s fun to look backwards while moving forward. Thank you so much for sharing! You made my day!

        • Thanks for writing, Barbara! We all have such nostalgic memories of “the good old days” as many of us often say, and there are times when I wish I could turn back the clock and go back to them. Oh, the things I would change! But I am a product of all my past life experiences, as we all are, but even in our new world where we can “Google” anything and get instantaneous answers to pretty much anything, I still love looking back to when I was a child and growing up in my family. Those were simpler times for sure. I too love factoids, and I thought I would share this site with you to check out so you can explore some more. I plan to reblog something from this site soon, but YOU can have a preview and check it out even more! I hope you enjoy the “Learn Fun Facts” site as much as I do! Merry Christmas to you and your family …


  3. Funny post

    And NO to text speak. Half of the time I never understand anyone who’s using it and think they are making a ton of typographical errors and I simply text back a punctuation smile.
    I do use lol though 😬

    • Wow … really! That’s highly unusual with you being the age you are and “older than life times 50” as you say! So you use “lol” and not even “OMG?” I do admit that “lol” makes it into my texting conversation once in a while and the occasional “ffs” as well, but those are so often overused by so many people. Actually, I agree with your comments, and when somebody does send me a text or an e-mail with a lot of textspeak in it, I always make sure I answer in fully grammatical English. I don’t feel like I should have to translate or use an online texting dictionary (like NetLingo) to transcribe everything they are telling me. I did think that the TED talk was really interesting though, and I did learn a lot from watching it. And I was amazed when I found out that “OMG” was actually over a hundred years old. Thanks for weighing in … 🙂

      • I think my life situations when I was younger put me in the place I am now, as well as loving language, being a writer and efforts at communication also make me dislike it.
        I’m also not one for swift communication. So if by chance I’m texting someone I’m not in a hurry and never feel the need to shorten anything. If I’m communicating I want to be concise and clear.
        Lol to my about me reference. 😏 I am both of those things, old due life experiences and younger due to birthdate. 🤷‍♀️
        Incidentally I never use ffs and I don’t know that I’ve ever noticed anyone use it. I likely just skipped over it, I had to look it up just now. The life of the naive 😋

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