Monday, 5 November 2007

Nonsense Blast

The latest craze that’s grabbing the earlobes of today’s youth and kneeing them in the crotch is ‘Freeform Texting’, otherwise known as ‘Nonsense Blast’. It involves sending a normal SMS text message to a friend or loved one, but instead of typing out letters to make words and sentences, the person uses their mobile phone to create a string of random letters and symbols. Thus, a text message that is supposed to say ‘Hi Dave, pub @ 8? Ste’ might say ‘yaawkswt f3c@ 33pfpaamn’.

The person credited with the creation of this revolution is Philip Stirrup, a 19-year-old student from Tarby.

‘I was on the train, texting my girlfriend to let her know I was going to be late,’ says Stirrup of his moment of creation. ‘As I was tapping out the letters I kept thinking, “I don’t want to type this letter, I want to type something else.” So that’s what I did. The text ended up saying ‘Hey Jules, I’nnnn a gam majgd 00.’

From these seeds of jibberish and a held-up girlfriend, a phenomenon was created. Soon, the word spread of Nonsense Blast, and text messages everywhere started getting silly. Estimates currently place the amount of nonsense texts at around 20% of all text messages sent in Britain, and that percentage is set to grow.

‘It really is a brilliant idea,’ says Bobby Grotnik, Professor of Linguistics and Stargate SG1 at Durham University. ‘These young people are escaping the confines of their own language, even relinquishing the bonds of the slang that they’ve created! By refusing to follow the rules of spelling, grammar or even simple semantic meaning, they’re allowing us all to break free from the oppressive rule of language, flying free from prison to gahdfm ….safdsfdhurrrrrrrrr’ At this point our email interview is halted as Professor Grotnik starts to freeform type in order to prove his point.

But not everyone is as pleased at this new linguistic revolution. Parents who already found their children’s language difficult to understand are now up in arms because their offspring are now sending completely impenetrable messages. Molly Oldenstock of Parents Against Nonsense Texting (PANT) says that her group are petitioning mobile phone companies to make them stop sending texts that are incomprehensible. So far the group has met with little luck.

‘We are sick and tired of sending our children messages asking where they are and getting a load of random letters as a response,’ Oldenstock yelled at me down the phone. ‘We want our kids to send proper messages that make sense. Now, the phone companies tell us that they can’t prevent people sending messages that don’t make sense because a few French people here and there might not get their texts. But we know why they don’t want to do it; it’s all about the money. Well, as parents we’re not going to take it any longer!’

Oldenstock went on. ‘I don’t care what the eggheads say about Lewis Carroll and James Joyce inventing their own language and escaping from the restrictivities of accepted usage! They still followed semantic and syntactic systematization!’ At this point Molly banged her hand on the table for effect but did so a little too hard and was hospitalized. Our thoughts go out to her family.

And so, despite the naysayers, freeform texting is not going to go anywhere. Indeed, its usage will seemingly grow, as dorky kids start learning about it weeks after it was cool and start doing it in a feeble attempt to gain credibility. It looks set to cross over into everyday life too, as psychiatrists are starting to use it as an aid to psychoanalysis. Who knows, it may not be long before you are sending text messages that look like Croatian shopping lists.

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