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 Longfellow
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 .” 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!
- 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 …
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 …