The word “texting” sounds harsh and garbled when it comes out of a speaker’s mouth. A sentence where “text” is used as a verb, such as , “I texted him yesterday but he didn’t text me back,” instantly summons an image of a slack-jawed, gum-popping teenage girl- all ignorance and frivolity. The words just sound stupid.
Don’t blame me- some of us Gen-Yers fought off the term “texting” the same way we did bad fads like Crocs and Ugg boots. Even deep into the aughts, years after “texting”, we still said “sending a text message” instead.
“Texting” prevailed however, for the same reason that Crocs and Uggs became ubiquitous: aesthetics aside, it was damn comfy and easy. “Texting” might make for an ugly-sounding word, but it came out with more smoothness and speed than the correct “sending a text message”.
The English language has a shameless pragmatism to it, just like the sloppy (but comfortable) people traipsing around the mall in sweatpants and Crocs. English judges a word not for its beauty or historical use, but instead for its potential to fill a gap or ease communication.
English’s deep preference for the simple means that no speaker can afford to be a purist, especially with informal technology and net-speak. We must face it: any site that is widely accessed will become a verb. In fact, the true test of a website’s popularity and importance is whether or not it has been verbed.
We “google” or “wiki” a subject when we want to learn about it. We “mapquest” a new location (even if we use googlemaps to find it). We “facebook” a new friend (or “facebook stalk” a potential love interest or gossip subject). If we use Facebook to send a private message, we say that we “messaged” that person. Idiotic as these new verbs all sound, they are effective and we cannot fight them.
Site-name verbing proves inevitable even when users are provided with an alternate verb at the outset. Twitter has attempted, and largely failed, to label the act of posting its 140-character updates as “tweeting”. Early-adopting netizens may still cling to the “tweet” verb, but the average user clearly prefers “twittering”- a longer and less elegant word! Twitter teaches us a new inevitability: you cannot force intelligent design onto net-speak, for blunt natural selection will win out.
So give in! I now use “texting” and “twittering” with wild and wanton abandon. I hate overly-cutesy net portmanteaus like “webbisode” and “webbinar”, but I am learning to loosen this prejudice for similar reasons (I even used the word ‘netizen’ in this post). Embrace our ever-evolving language, even if it rings a little choppy and silly. Learn to love utter practicality- I’m trying. Maybe this winter I’ll even buy Uggs.