Why new words like ‘obvi’ and ‘sitch’ are here to stay … for a while

The irony is that many began in text and spread to speech. In today’s world, everybody is in a rush, whether you are speaking or texting.

Many of us who appreciate language have tried to avoid drowning in the ever-growing alphabet soup of acronyms, but I could, to my great chagrin, find more than one instance in our files of LOL, OMG and TGIF, to name just a few, without looking too hard. Editors try to rise above made-up words, but sometimes we simply can’t keep ahead of the tsunami.

If the word is catchy enough, useful enough, and used enough, we simply give up resisting, and by that time it’s already in the dictionary.

There are, of course, some who find all of this too much, simply another horrible corruption of the English language that would plunge loving mothers, crusty editors and grade-school grammar teachers into a(nother) fit of pique.

They prefer a simpler time when rules were rules and everybody understood each other. Alas, we all know we can never go back, and besides, there is little evidence we ever understood each other anyway.

The evolution of the language is constant, and abbreviations have a long history. After all, modern English was invaded by the useful “can’t” or “won’t” centuries ago and expanded quickly to include the horrible “must’ve” or “there’ll” soon after, despite the fact contractions were frowned upon in print well into the 20th century — and even still in some quarters.

On the other hand, some things cannot last. ‘Twas, ’tis, ne’er and o’er are all but obsolete, along with the likes of “anon” or “ere.” No doubt “obvi” and “deets” will face a similar fate — sooner or later.

Paul Berton is editor-in-chief of the Hamilton Spectator and thespec.com. You can reach him at 905-526-3482 or pberton@thespec.com

Paul Berton is editor-in-chief of the Hamilton Spectator and thespec.com. You can reach him at 905-526-3482 or pberton@thespec.com