The Third Leader: Texting times


Brrnngg! gr8 nuz: L%kz lIk Ovr 1,000 $B txt msgz wiL b snt WW DIS yr! ATB 2 evry1 hu hz hlpD 2 spred DIS IMHO xlnt nu method of cmUnik8shn!

What? Listen, you're an Independent reader. All right, though, just to maintain the warm, big-tent inclusiveness that is as much a feature of this newspaper as its vibrant modernity, I will tell you that, loosely translated, the first paragraph celebrates the prediction that this year, worldwide, text messages will pass the 1,000 billion mark and congratulates messagers for helping to promote this fine new language tool.

Yes, people d0 grumble about texting being some sort of dumbing-d0wn, but we say: bolX! w knbs on! I used to be like them, hiding my technology-tentativeness behind bluster. I even had to ask Mr Walsh what the title of his Saturday column meant, believing BTW to be some sort of sandwich. But, as I watched texters I saw that, apart from anything else, here was a great new role for the thumb, so sadly unemployed since the decline of hitchhiking and the end of war films with John Mills in them.

This week, too, it's worth noting that Nelson's famous message was, in its way, texted; you might also have seen this, in the moving letter home from the powder monkey at Trafalgar: "We had to leave our Quarters 2 get breth".

And that's only part of the noble pedigree of the sms; consider, too, the high laconics perfected by such as Caesar – veni, vidi, vici – and Robert Benchley, with his famous Venice cable: "Streets full of water, please advise." Today, brevity is far rarer than literacy. So I'm off... er, c U l8r, ok?

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