Monday, September 21, 2009

These Kids Nowadays

I love seeing photos of letters written back in the 1800s, especially the beautiful handwriting that people used back then. Every sentence was written in such neat, horizontal lines – a digital level could not have improved it. The slant of every letter was so consistent that it looked like a protractor had been used. I’ve always tried to use good penmanship, even to the point of being a little obsessed about it. Quite a bit obsessed, actually. For example, ever since the 4th grade, if I wrote the letter “e” and it ended up looking like the letter “i”’ I feared something really bad would happen to my mother. I’d fix it so it looked more like an “e” and all would be well.

I still do that.

But I do have nice handwriting and have always taken a little pride in that. I studied Russian and even my Russian cursive looks pretty nice – much better than Lee Harvey Oswald’s anyway.

Here’s part of a letter I wrote to a Russian pen-pal a while back:

Well, it seems that the learning of cursive and basic penmanship is quickly falling by the wayside these days. At first, the old fuddy-duddy side of me kicked in and was lamenting this trend. (“These kids nowadays!”) That is, until I realized how little we actually utilize handwriting anymore.

We may scribble notes to ourselves during meetings, but more and more, I bring my laptop to do that.

Writing checks? Nope. I do it all online now.

When you think about it, we actually do no more handwriting than can be placed on a Post-it note these days.

A hundred years ago, teachers predicted the demise of handwriting when typewriters came into use. Later, they even discouraged the use of ball-point pens for the same reason.

So, I will concede that learning penmanship has little practical use anymore.

But what really irks me to no end is the horrible spelling and grammar that’s used by these kids nowadays, mainly due to this bothersome and totally useless activity called 'texting.' I really don’t want to even respond to a message like:

omg it was like 2 kewl 2 c u

or worse

where u at

I want to call this person back and say, “I am ‘at’ a place where I don’t respond to messages that end with a preposition.”

Back when I was a kid in school, we actually wrote notes to each other and illegally passed them while the teacher wasn’t looking. Notes that contained hugely significant and well-written treatises such as:
I like you a lot
and we actually spelled out the horribly long word, “you”.

We would have never even considered writing "I like u a lot." The recipient would have thought the sender was an idiot and would have never returned the much-anticipated, "I like you a lot too."

Sigh. . . .

We were good kids. . .

If I ever caught my kid sending a text that contained the atrocity “where u at” he’d have to spend a couple of hours at the kitchen table writing "Where are you?" about two hundred times before he got his cell phone back.

It’s a good thing I’m not a parent.


At 2:39 PM , Blogger Bad Alice said...

Trust me, you don't want to text in full words - the keys are tiny and frustrating, and if you're trying to drive at the same time you need to be quick :). Think of it as shorthand or the kind of typing court reporters use. So, someone might text Where r u?

Kewl, on the other hand, has the same number of characters as cool, so I'm not sure how it came to be.

My daughters still want to write in cursive. Go figure. It has somehow remained a right of passage - something the big kids learn to do.

At 6:06 PM , Blogger Miss Healthypants said...

LOL! :) When Iwanski & I have kids, will you be the fuddy duddy uncle, correcting their grammar all the time?

I hope so!! *smiles*

At 11:00 AM , Blogger Buck said...

MHP: If you come home someday and your kid is at the kitchen table writing lines while I'm babysitting, you'll know what happened.

At 11:23 AM , Blogger taviskaron said...


А какое слово вы написали в конце письма? "Мридно"?

Наверно, вы ошиблись в слове "трудно"=)

Надо было написать "Я понимаю, что письмо - это очень трудно!"

ваша "т" на письме выглядит точно как "м" =)

At 4:41 PM , Blogger Hannah said...

Hi! I found your blog while looking for examples of easy-to-read Cyrillic handwriting. I just wanted to tell you that although the decline of the handwritten word is a shame, I don't think you need to worry about a decline in the general quality of English as a result. Some of our greatest literature was written when much less of the population was literate and standards of spelling and punctuation didn't exist at all. All these authors break grammatical rules that we've either invented or gotten more attached to since then ("We are such stuff as dreams are made on").To depart from the realm of English for a minute, the Iliad was passed down orally for centuries! I'm interested to see what digital communication will accomplish for talented people, who are no more or less common now than they ever were.

And thanks for your beautiful example of Russian cursive! I've learned a lot from it just in the last twenty minutes.

At 5:02 PM , Blogger Buck said...

Thanks, Hannah! Those are very good points you made.


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