Quoting Illiterates (Update)

An email has flooded in about my previous post confirming that I was being too harsh. My correspondent points out that the mother was illiterate, she was just using “txtspk” which, whilst not being a dialect that many people enjoy reading, is still becoming an acceptable language amongst the young.

I don’t agree with this for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, I accept that txtspk is a very common language amongst the young. But I think that an important part of being literate is knowing the appropriate language to use in different circumstances. And, in my opinion, using txtspk when talking about her son like that is inappropriate. To me it shows a lack of respect. I accept that not everyone will agree with me.

But secondly, let’s look more closely at what she wrote. The quotation I used was “RIP my lil angel mummy knows your still here love u always and foreva”. Some of those errors (“lil”, “u”, and maybe even “foreva”) are clearly txtspk so we’ll ignore them. But “your” isn’t txtspk (that would be “ur”, as I understand it) and it’s not good English. She means to say “you’re”. Mixing up homonyms like “you’re” and “your” is what marks her out as illiterate.

Maybe she isn’t illiterate. Maybe she’s just sloppy. But when all you know about someone is their writing, then you’ll obviously judge their level of literacy by what they have written. To me, it’s important that my writing gives as good an impression of me as possible. It seems that other people aren’t as bothered about first impressions as I am.

By the way, I enjoy getting feedback on my blog in any form. But the best way is to add a comment. That way all of the conversation takes place in public.


Quoting Illiterates

The BBC have an interesting report on the baby who was mauled to death by the family rottweiler. The story talks about the child’s mother’s reaction to the death. It’s interesting because of the way that they report what she says.

The quotations from the mother in the story obviously come from two sources – one is is probably a spoken interview and the other is things that she has written on her Bebo profile.

In the spoken interview, the BBC reporter has translated what she has says into standard English. So she’s quoted as saying “My boy was my world. He is loved by many. He will always be in our hearts, never to be forgotten”. But the Bebo page is quoted verbatim, so we suffer the full force of the mother’s illiteracy – “RIP my lil angel mummy knows your still here love u always and foreva”.

Oh, I know what you’re all thinking (the less cynical of you, at least). You’re thinking that I’m being too harsh. That people should be allowed to be illiterate in their grief or that this kind of language is raw or even poetic. I say nonsense. If there’s one time in you’re life when you want to hang onto whatever dignity that you can, then surely it’s when you’re in mourning. Going through something like the loss of a child is bad enough at any time. It can only be worse when you’re going through it in the public eye as this family are.

Which makes the way that the BBC has reported this seem a bit strange to me. I’m not sure that “woman writes about her dead son on social web site” is really newsworthy anyway, but if you’re going to report it you could at least spare the poor woman the embarrassment of her obviously tenuous grasp on the English language.

Or perhaps I am just being too harsh.