It's a new world, with a language all its own
It was a simple question that merited a simple answer, "Dad, how old were you when you got your first cell phone?" "32!" I replied. She just sat there staring at me, debating whether she had overestimated my power of persuasion and thus my ability to convince grandpa to pony up for a phone or if she had failed to recognize that I was a complete Luddite. She is 12, already has a cell phone and can't imagine a world without iPods, Menchie's and Wikipedia.
After letting her sit in stunned silence, I explained that cell phones did not hit the open market until the mid-1980s and did not become widely used until the mid-1990s. I also explained that the first cell phones were the size of shoes and cost more than a pair of Air Jordans. "Air Jordans?" she asked.
Her surprise and confusion were understandable though; I thought the same thing growing up. I was astounded to learn that my father was raised on radio and that news events were shown on the big screen in local theaters.
I am not sure if changes in communication style mandate a need for new devices or if the devices actually change the way we communicate, but I am sure both have happened. I took handwriting class in grade school and typing class in high school. My daughter began "keyboarding" in the third grade. I didn't see my first computer until college; by the sixth grade, she already had two PowerPoint presentations under her belt.
Along with the new communication style comes new language. Many of the phrases and terms I use on a regular basis are completely new to my father. So it is with my daughter. Her text messages to friends look more like hieroglyphics than English. In an attempt to keep up with these radical changes I asked her to make me a list of common text message words. Her list included such gems as:
l8rg8r = later gator
ttly = totally
g2g = got to go
brb = be right back
idk = I don't know
bibi = bye bye
lyk = like
ttyl = talk to you later
iooh = I'm out of here
omg = oh my gosh
Yes it's a new world and it's not mine anymore; it may never have been mine in the first place. Maybe every generation has the world on loan until the next generation takes over. Still, it seems communication is the key, so here goes:
Huny, nvr 4get that u mean the wrl 2 me. Tyt (take your time) growing up and no that I m here 4 u A3 (anywhere, anytime, anyplace) nsa (no strings attached). If u want to talk, u can tex me or we can do it f2f (face to face). Jes let me no if u need my .02 (two cents). We can even dclare an afz (acronym-free zone). B4n (bye for now). Lol (lots of love). Dad.
Michael C. DeMattos is on faculty at the University of Hawai'i Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work. Born and raised on the Wai'anae Coast, he now lives in Kane'ohe with his wife, daughter, two dogs and two mice.