Friday, January 26, 2007

a nu nvl fr u

Did you all have a good Burn’s night? Lots of haggis, neaps and a few drams, I trust. I never could understand why Rabbie Burns had a party night all to himself. Milton, Chaucer, Keats, Shelley, Browning and none of the others seem to have latched on to the idea. I suppose he was just a good old boy for a party. But then I never could understand him anyway. A few drams too many before putting pen to paper, I thought, and it always seemed to me he could have done with a spell checker on his machine. And, I suppose, so could Will Shakespeare, come to think of it.

But all this spelling nonsense is a bit academic now and only some old fogeys, such as myself, Dr. Johnson and a few others, worry about it. Noah Webster is probably still a bit touchy on the subject, I understand and I believe the subject is verboten in schools now in case it should give the kiddiwinkies some sort of an inferiority complex.

It’s a bit dreary in Finland at this time of the year, so to enliven the winter hours in the sauna, some nut in Helsinki has just published his novel written in txt. You know, that illegible shorthand used by kids twiddling their thumbs over their mobile telephones.

Mercifully I have neglected to memorise the title so I can at least spare you that but somehow I don’t think I’ll be adding it to my library.

The article didn’t mention whether or not he’d written it on his mobile or had cheated a bit and done it on his keyboard. If the former, I bet his thumbs were sore and if the latter, well, the man’s a fraud!

It seems to have been a totally pointless exercise and not going to add much to the beauty of the language, even Finnish, which is not high on the list of the world’s most graceful. Perhaps it is fortunate that there aren’t too many speakers (or readers) of that tongue, even in Finland, where a good many of the citizens prefer to gabble away in Swedish, to the horror of the nationalists there.

Sooner or later, I suppose, someone will translate it into English txt so that teenagers will be able to start reading books again. It is, I think, the only chance of bringing any degree of literacy to the up and coming generation and making the subject more appealing to them than video games and television. In a few decades, no doubt my library will be regarded in much the same manner as we at present think of ancient papyrus and they will be scouring the world for a Rosetta stone so that the mysteries can be unravelled. What was the secret this old geezer was guarding in these ancient tomes?

But hopefully, a few of us will struggle on for a few years, attempting to preserve the old language from disappearing in the way that Cornish has.

And for those speakers of txt who may be visiting Finland, I can offer a hint.

Once I was staying Vaasa and needed to get a cab to the airport. Now it would be fair to say that my command of Finnish is less than perfect. As you know, the word for airport is pretty much standard throughout the world. Airport, aeroport, aeroporto and even flughafen usually work. But not in Finland. In despair I drew a picture of an aircraft taking off.

“Ah,” cries the cabby, “Lentoaseema!”

So when texting for a taxi, give lntsma a shot. You never know what you might get.


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