Text me

SMUS-Views-Bob

Actually, don’t text me.

 

Well, all right, go ahead and text me if you like. But I didn’t use that headline because I am lonely and bored and crying out for messages.

 

So why tease a reader like that? At the risk of sounding subversive to my colleagues who are English teachers, I think texting is a good thing for the language. It is terse, functional and immediate. It is stripped down. Without a thought for the time and effort, students finger their key pads with focus and economy. Twenty-six letters and all kinds of punctuation on about 12 keys – no problem. And if you click “send” too fast – oh my, are you ever responsible for that mistake; it is out in world, to be transmitted over and over, and cannot be disowned.

 

I said in an earlier blog that the world is too wordy (yes, I am adding to that pollution in this blog, I know). Recently a group of us gathered to wordsmith a heap of written feedback. Ore with a lot of dross. Early on in the conversation, I railed (as I used to rail when I was in the English classroom) against adjectives, adverbs and other modifiers. I used to say to students that adjectives and adverbs are like make-up: apply too much, and you end up cheap and trashy, out on the street, in heels, trailing clouds of perfume and inviting questions about your virtue. On the other hand, judiciously applied, colour can be playful, style can be sparkling, a little decoration can illuminate inner radiance. Likewise, a plain truth can unfold with subtlety and eloquence, dressed in the right modifier, a chrysalis emerging into butterfly.

 

To get back to texting. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have an English class take out their phones some time – they could even work in pairs, or groups, to add a little spice (and also, not everyone in the class will have a phone with text) – and compose a message analysing a character, describing a flower, or sketching an incident. The discipline imposed by the format and the cost of the message would yield creative results, a sort of underground haiku. Until the next thing comes along, I suppose.

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Bob Snowden
Bob Snowden was Head of School at St. Michaels University School for 22 years, from 1995-2017.

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