Re: Reuben Abati: Social Media and The English Language

Reuben Abati: Evil genius

by Abdullahi Yahaya

If there was any politician whose write-ups I so much love, enjoy and read with relish, it is Reuben Abati. The man whose eminence and prowess to me came into limelight only after the government he served under became extinct. His write-ups from, “The Phone No Longer Rings”, “The cost of national depression”, “May Day, Tiwa Savage, Her Husband And Nigeria” and many other dramatic write-ups of him have been a source of inspiration to me, to write in future, in dramatic form as he does. I must surely commend him for this because I get entertained and I always can’t wait to check, open and read any of his contributions to national issues even as some of them do not serve my interest and do not appeal to my sentiments. As a graduate of English and Literature, criticism has taught me to criticise and appreciate works of art which I see his as one.

Nonetheless, his recent release has caught my attention much as it is a deviation from his previous essays on Politics to delving into English Language usage which I usually feel uneasy and get anxious to read, learn and possibly contribute when it is made a topic to be given breath. His submission on the dwindling writing skills of our youths today on social media has been a source of concern to me. I wrote an article a couple of years ago on how some social media users are careless with their “chronic” use of abbreviations in an attempt to drive home their points which end up being driven to the bush instead as most of them cannot be easily understood. Such write-ups I consider them as nonsensical, devoid of credibility and worth. This has also caused a quite number of students’ failure using the shortened words/abbreviations in formal settings such as formal applications, examinations and other places of relative importance. In some cases, some of them find it difficult to spell certain words correctly as a result of their “abbreviational” interference.

Some of the examples he gave as deviation from conventional way of writing are as follows, “In place of the word“for, you are likely to see “4”, and so the word “forget” becomes “4get”, or “4git”, “fortune” is written as “4tune”, “forever” as “4eva”. The word “see” has been pruned down to a single alphabet “C”, same with “you” now rendered as “u”. In effect, you are likely to read such strange things as  “cu” or “cya” meaning “see you.”

He goes further to exemplify that, “Some other words have suffered similar fate: “straight” is now written as “Str8”, “first” as “fess”; “will” as “wee” (I can’t figure out why), “house” is now “haus”; “help” has been reduced to “epp”; (“who have you epped?”) instead of the phrase “kind of”, what you get is “kinda”,“money” is simply “moni.”, the computer sign ”@” has effectively replaced the word “at”; “come” is now “cum”, the conjunction “and” is represented with an “n” or the sign &, “that” is now “dat”, “temporary” is likely to be written as “temp”, “are” as “r”, “your” as “ur”  “to” as “2”, “take” as “tk.” In place of “thank you”, you are likely to find “tank u”, “with” is now “wit” or “wif”, and “sorry” is commonly written as“sowie”.  I have also seen such expressions as “Hawayu?” (“How are you?”), or “Wia r d u?” (“where are the you?”).  The you? The me? The us?”

With all that said, I must register my disappointment or better still, a show of primordial traits which shows that you see the world as in the 70’s and 80’s which you are ignorant that a lot has changed now. In as much as I support your condemnation of the trend in writing today and your assumption that Social media has affected people negatively, I must however acknowledge that it has brought quite a positive change to some people’s life as some who never knew how to write can now write, even though it may lack a touch of evidence of years of scholarship in some cases. But that is not a case as far as the message will be there no matter how poorly written. Practice, it is said, makes perfect.

In all the examples given, the ones cited above, from him, are most accurate and reliable which must be discontinued. But, social media, being an entity of its own and owing to the fact that it is getting a larger everyday, it needs to have its jargons. It should have certain words to be associated with and if such words are introduced, they must remain within the confines of social media and not beyond, which I believe the jargons have so far achieved. These jargons however were given treatment as the same as the earlier mentioned ones as it is in the write-up They are equally considered negative and one of social media demerits. Below is his take on them:

“Oftentimes, this special prose arrives amidst a number of other confusing symbols, emoticons, memes, acronyms and abbreviations, looking like a photographic combination of English and hieroglyphics.  Some of the more popular abbreviations include Lmao (“laughing my ass off”) lol (“laughing out loud”), lwkmd (“laughter wan kill man die”), stfu (“shut the fuck up”), omg (“Oh my God”), rofl (“Rolling on the floor with laughter”), uwc (“you are welcome”), smh (“shaking my head”) brb (“be right back”), #tbt (“throw-back Thursday”), #WCW (“Woman Crush Wednesday”), and such new words as “bae”, “boo”, “finz”, “famzing”, “Yaaay”. Not to talk of such expressions as “You should mute me now”; “get wifed-up”,  “birthday loading”, “you hammer”, “kwakwakwakwa.”

Apart from “uwc”, ” brb”, “finz”, not to talk of  “kwakwakwakwa” which I don’t know or never even seen it, all other ones are normal jargons, meant only for chatting especially. Whereas “uwc”, “brb” and “finz”, stand for “You are welcome”, “Be Right back”, and “things” respectively and are very common, the shortening of which will be considered a bluff and blunder, “lol”, “rofl” “WCW” are innovations with the introduction of social media and any modification or making it full will render it useless, loss of merits, and less interesting.

Finally, your spelling of the word, WhatsApp as What’sapp brings to home the fact that you don’t subscribe to it and it only takes a devil to know another devil. It takes two to tango and you can only know what is involved in something only when you are party to it. The real-time chatting app is “WhatsApp” not “what’sapp” as you repeated several times. Looking forward to reading more articles from one of my mentors, Reuben Abati.