B E Z, mind it not

In case anyone is still worried that texting abbreviations are a sign that the English language is deteriorating they should have a look at the article in the Guardian a few days ago about an upcoming exhibition on language at the British Library in London, which provides evidence that these abbreviations are actually a time-honored tradition of playful language/orthography use. Among other things the exhibition revisits the history of language peevery, it seems, with such landmarks as Jonathan Swift’s A Proposal for Correcting, Improving and Ascertaining the English Tongue. One of the many grievances Jonathan Swift had with his fellow English users was that barbarous Custom of abbreviating Words. Swift would surely not have been amused by the poetic use of things like “I wrote 2U B4” in an 19th century poem the exhibition features. Anatol Stefanowitsch, whose blog post pointed me to this, dug up the complete poem referred to in the article, Essay to Miss Catharine Jay, as it was published in 1847. Some of the ’emblems’ are not easy to resolve, have a look… The one that Anatol is wondering about in his post is ‘The girl without a parallel’ as a girl without a parallel pointed out to me.

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