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How ‘txt spk’ leads me into paths where angels fear 2 tread
3:57pm Thursday 5th July 2012 in Editor's Chair
I HAVE to concede a setback in my battle to safeguard the English language from the horrors of new technology.
Most purists loathe the text speak that has grown up around mobile phones.
Well, despite my affection for texting, I’ve never used a smiley face in my life and I still don’t understand the significance of ‘LOL’.
Whenever I texted in the past, I ensured I spelt out the words in full and rarely took short-cuts such as ‘c u soon’ or ‘r u well’.
My fear is that this type of laziness will eventually corrupt the English language and spawn a generation which doesn’t know how to spell or how to use grammar.
But it’s all gone pear-shaped lately due to the fact I upgraded to an iPhone.
For those who don’t know, these are wonderful gadgets which allow you to do virtually everything at the touch of a screen. They take great pictures, they give fast internet access, they filter all your emails into a convenient folder, they play music and games – and are small enough to put in your pocket.
However, my previous mobile had a neat little pull-out keyboard attached to it. I used this to type very quickly and could compile long emails and texts in a matter of moments.
My iPhone has no such terrestrial keyboard and you have to rely instead on pressing buttons on the screen. It’s easy enough – unless, like me, you have giant fingers. I normally end up pressing the wrong letters and it’s a hideously slow process.
I still haven’t mastered it and often have to get my young son to text for me.
But to my delight, I discovered the iPhone has voice activation that actually works. All you need to do is to press one button, speak into the device and tell it who you want to phone, text or email. You can even do web searches this way, or ask its calculator to compute a large sum for you.
I’ve had people stare and laugh at me as I’ve gone through the motions of ordering the phone to do various functions. But it actually does work and means I don’t have to trawl through my contacts book to find the person I want to call.
There are two downsides though. The less serious one is that onlookers think you are mad or just being flash when you stand in the street and order an electronic device to ring someone for you.
The other, more worrying, problem is that although the voice activation is impressive, it’s not perfect, however clearly you speak.
On Saturday, I was at a chess tournament at Eton College and received a text from my sports editor, Alan Feldberg, about the takeover of Wycombe Wanderers.
I told my phone: “Reply to Alan Feldberg.” A computerised voice responded: “What do you want to say to Alan Feldberg?”
I then reeled off a long text and ended by saying ‘bye’. The message came on screen perfectly, but ended with ‘by’.
I couldn’t let that go so I started all over again and this time avoided saying ‘bye’, but the message omitted some random words, so I had to do it yet again.
Finally, to avoid being thrown out of Eton College for being a madman, I gave up and texted a message which made sense, but was full of sloppy errors.
And I followed suit over the weekend with a number of other similar messages to staff that either omitted words such as ‘at’ or ‘and’ or contained peculiar small errors. Most texters send messages like this all the time, but I had never wanted to join them.
On Monday, I spoke to Alan and apologised if my message was in any way odd, as I explained the voice activation difficulty.
His response cut through everything: “Why didn’t you just ring me – it would have been easier?”
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