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attack of d sms

Short messaging — a whole new lingo?

WHILE READING a classic novel, do you put it down a million times to reach for the dictionary? Well, maybe the next generation will feel the same way about 19th Century literature. And we might well be the Tennysons and Dumases of tomorrow.

SMS seems to be the all-encompassing solution when you want to let your friend know you'll be an hour late, have to remind your son to buy atta on his way home, or want to convey a little love message during class without the risk of being caught for passing chits. For most people with cell phones, SMS is a fantastic way to communicate. Subodh, an advertising professional, says: "It allows you to get to the point without having to call up and go through the hello-how-are-you small talk." But why should words be shortened and vowels dropped?

"Just because I have a cell it doesn't mean I'm a rich dude," says Suguna. "SMS costs money. Why send five messages just to guard grammar?" Devika Chandran, teacher in a city school, says SMS and e-mail language have percolated into school assignments. "When we chose to put the triangular dots to represent `therefore' after proving a maths theorem, and when we wrote `No.' instead of `number', it was a sign. What's wrong in that?" Most of us SMSers also sweep out conjunctions in our messages. So something like this — movie at 1230? my chair crookd. u hv my cd. pls return — is not from a person with a low attention span, but a way to say it all in one go.

But as a new digitally literate class is taking away the power to shape language from the likes of teachers and newspaper editors, one wonders if we should absorb `brb's and `gnite's into the English language. Language and the lexicon are evolving so rapidly that whenever a new word is encountered, one will have to Ask Jeeves or check with Google to be sure that it is not an ad hoc fabrication. But now, the ever useful Concise Oxford English dictionary has included `GR8', `emoticon', `RUOK' and so on in its newer editions.

ROHINI MOHAN

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