I'm tickled and honored that the New York Times has published a letter of mine in today's Magazine. (Scroll down, down, down past all the serious letters.)
The On Language column I refer to, by 20-something guest columnist Ashley Parker, is here
but access is restricted to subscribers, so here's the gist (no more paywall, hurrah!): It's about a teen "anti-language" called "The Ling," which involves lots of acronyms and abbreviations in speech and text messages (ador = adorable; obvi = obviously; ridic = ridiculous; H.W. = homework.)
The other letter-writer on this subject, one David Cohen from Oxford, England (natch!), points with alarm: "Can we keep this kind of abbreviation out of national circulation? It only encourages an irritating group who believe themselves to be made cool by refusing to pronounce anything in full."
Too late, Dave. English-speakers have been doing this sort of thing for decades or longer. The once-scandalous epithet "bloody" was a contraction of "by Our Lady"; acronyms such as snafu and fubar--also quite naughty in their spelled-out forms--originated during World War II. And besides the Gershwinisms I cite, there are "delish," "terrif," "fave," and "faboo" (for "fabulous"), all of which predate the teens of Ms. Parker's acquaintance.
In English, we gravitate toward contraction. Consider the possessive -'s: it's shorthand for the -es of Middle English. ("The dog's dinner" was originally "the dogges dinner.") German agglomerates its words; English prunes them into compact little phonemes: OK, Coke, def, spaz. (The last is very un-PC, but was a popular Ling term during my own teendom.) Lately, brand namers have been taking a leaf from those old speedwriting ads ("If U Cn Rd Ths...") and eliminating vowels from product names like Flickr and RAZR.
As for text messaging--well, nd we sA mO?