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Composing text messages — punching phrases and sentences onto a mobile phone’s keypad — is tedious and time consuming. So a form of shorthand has evolved: "Wait" becomes "w8," "are you" becomes "RU," and so on. Young people are the vanguard of text language, says Mike Grenville, founder of 160characters.org, a text-messaging association based in ...

Composing text messages — punching phrases and sentences onto a mobile phone’s keypad — is tedious and time consuming. So a form of shorthand has evolved: "Wait" becomes "w8," "are you" becomes "RU," and so on.

Young people are the vanguard of text language, says Mike Grenville, founder of 160characters.org, a text-messaging association based in Britain, a country in which users send some 2 billion text messages each month. A British schoolgirl grabbed headlines last year when she wrote an essay entirely in truncated text, and one European Parliament member recently tried to reach young constituents by translating part of the European Union constitution into French-based text language.

Predictably, text messaging’s popularity with young people is sparking concerns about its impact on language. One education association in Scotland, for example, has called for text messaging to be "stamped out" as a form of communication. But Carolyn Adger, a director at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Applied Linguistics (cal.org), says grammar is "hardy" and impervious to text messaging. Adger likens text language to slang. Although words such as "cool" may slip into the vernacular, most slang fades with time. "Some [text messaging] usages could become more common, but it’s not dangerous," Adger says.

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