I suppose I could go back and try to see how long it has been since I posted anything more substantial than vacation pictures, but the answer is pretty simple: a long-ass time.
But I’m back. I’m going to make a concerted effort to reenter the blogosphere on a regularâ€”if perhaps not dailyâ€”basis. Even I am tired of my pathetic excuse, “it’s been really crazy at work.” Well, when isn’t it. My company’s CEO and other top execs manage to blog regularly, so I really need to get over myself.
To celebrate my triumphant return to nonfamous, I want to talk about something VERY importantâ€¦ LOLcats. More specifically, LOLcats and the future of the English language.
If you’re not familiar with this particular species of animal, please to enjoy:
These images courtesy of this ummyeah.com, a site with the hyper-accurate tagline “Dear Productivity, it was nice knowing you.” But the reigning champion of the LOLcats phenomenon is I can has cheezburger?, a site that you should never visit unless you want to become that guy who just has to show co-workers funny pictures of cats. Reader, I became him. Which is especially sad when you consider that I don’t even like cats!
But as usual, I have an overintellectualized rationalization that allows me to partake of an otherwise guilty pop-culture pleasure. I put my Amateur Linguistics Society hat firmly on my pointy head every time I wade into the syntactically strange habitat of the LOLcat. These are not normal cat photos, you seeâ€¦ LOLcats are cat photos captioned in a strange hybrid of Internet jargon, text messagisms and assorted geek memes. What’s really interesting to me (and apparently Anil and some linguist guy I’d never heard of) is the fact that that LOLcat syntax and usage, however hilariously fractured from the mother tongue, have rapidly acquired a fairly durable structureâ€”deserving, perhaps, to be understood as a pidgin. It simply doesn’t take long (500 LOLcats, say) to recognize a “correct” caption from a wrong one. And almost invariably, the funniest captions are those that best comport with canonical (catonical?) usage. (Here’s a primer, if you’re interested.)
What’s interesting to me is that the LOLcat penomenon takes something with fairly universal appear (pictures of cats) and creates a shared inside joke. Anything you have to explain isn’t funny, but when I showed my boss the insanely cute photo above, I had to explain the whole “im in ur ___ ____ing ur ____z” thing to her. Granted, some LOLcats captions are pretty accessible, but the whole movement is more or less as cliquish as highschoolâ€”LOLcats fans are the unlikely cool kids with their special words and inscrutable hierarchies of hilarity.
Which brings me to my final point. What is a grammar-geek with a degree in English to think of this? Isn’t it another sign of linguistic apocalypse? Maybe so, if you as the Ireland’s State Examination Commission, which just released a report which apparently tries to answer the question “Y cant teh jonny rite?”:
“The emergence of the mobile phone and the rise of text messaging as a popular means of communication would appear to have impacted on standards of writing as evidenced in the responses of candidates,” the report said, according to Wednesday’s Irish Times. “Text messaging, with its use of phonetic spelling and little or no punctuation, seems to pose a threat to traditional conventions in writing.”
The report laments that, in many cases, candidates seemed “unduly reliant on short sentences, simple tenses and a limited vocabulary”.
It may well be that LOLcats and its fellow tech-inspired argots are “in ur brainz, fraggin ur wordz.” If LOLcats is wrong, I don’t want to be right.