Fifth Column – Tardy vs L8 – Issue 24

A debate that is evolving and diminishing simultaneously is the one about language, semantics and contextualisation of communication. A significant battlefield for the conquering of communication is usually no larger than six inches. Whilst miniaturisation of technological devices is all well and good, after all we can have only certain sized pockets in our casual wear, it seems the process is working on our communication in human cognitive terms in ways not always beneficial to the progress of our understanding of one another and concepts requiring cognitive skills. a question that should be spelled out in full is the one posed in the title of this article.

This dilemma can be seen in using something as simple-looking as FU as a text message. The first cry is that the context of text speak is for transferring simple information such CU@8 and not for passing on the entirety of the Gettysburg Address. Initially FU can appear a simple message but the context indeed becomes prominent. Particularly amongst proletarians, FU could stand for Fiduciary Undermining, especially in a context of workplace redundancy. Similarly, FU may mean that the sender has a degree of acrimony toward the recipient. “It is a case of FU,” or shortened further to “Tis FU,” are just two interpretations of the letters standing for conceptual language. Indeed, if the relations between texter and recipient are somewhat strained or at breaking point, or the texter is admitting defeat in a philosophical argument or debate, then FU could then be construed as such exasperation.

This example points to the possibility of context being such that the immediacy and ease of SMS cannot easily convey specific, focused, individual expression of feeling and/or idea. Just as in the title, the word tardy might seem archaic and unworthy of modern usage, but, not only does it have an element of humour because of its archaic value but its alternate L8 is confusing.

Initially, there seems no problem as it shortens the interminably long one syllable word late to two mechanical elements unless you have a full keyboard where shift key is unnecessary for numbers. However, not only does it take longer, the number is only functional if we accept a kind of perversion of the pronunciation of the number eight as ate; the latter being best used if we are talking of the past tense of the verb to eat in such as, “I 8 bfst am.” Granted, in the missive “Y R U L8’ is the question mark implied to save another valuable second more or is it rhetorical and therefore not curious about why the recipient is tardy is not by necessity complex. How or would qualification be in full or continued as SMS? “R U L8” or “R U Dlib L8?” or “R U L8 cos U dnt wt 2 C M?” The latter could be texted as “Y R U L8 Crs? (summat up) or indeed “probs?” could be used.

Although very functional at a superficial inquiring level, ‘probs’ does not wholly convey whether the texter is concerned or accusative. Even the reference to inquire as to the possible problems that caused lateness, it cannot easily convey nuances of such inquiry. There’s a case for suggesting that the relationship context might infer the meaning of ‘probs’ but, as we know of life, nothing is so simple or fixed as context in which we actively communicate. In this case, the clausal inquiry ‘probs’ might refer to texter as the one encountering problems over the L8ness of the recipient or indeed problems understanding why the recipient could or should be late.

Apart from the neglect of nuances in communication, SMS tendencies could suggest a bone idleness that if only material is contained, or worse, it could imply a laziness and complacency in what communication is between participants more than mere automata. This aspect of reductive automation of the human soul and psyche is more insidious than the pointlessness of excluding one letter or two – but only one key prod – in such as late.

Yes, tardy is even longer and must seem sagacious to our need to communicate quickly as life is counter intuitively still too short, but, in the scheme of existence and its richness, to seek to reduce ‘late’ or even ‘tardy’, delayed, prevented from promptness is counter intuitive to nuanced and worthwhile communication, isn’t it? The compromising of communication as a varied, layered and very interesting human capacity for the sake of brevity in the hybridised and reduced context of SMS texting is too high a price to pay, however cheap the tariff.

Just as long as our philosophical and cognitive apprehension of a life with such wonderful semantics and linguistic possibilities are not reduced, seduced and usurped by SMS as a kind of coercive simplification of how we consider ourselves as human beings in terms of human dignity and value in and for ourselves, then fine. However, we must restate our intentions to recognise the  limitations of these speed oriented communication devices, before it’s 2 L8.