To facebook or not to facebook

c: | f: /

The unfortunate rise of the nerb. I heart your mum lol. Facebook me later, blud.

I have a love-hate relationship with many things; the Oxford English dictionary is one of them. While I honour their mission to represent modern trends in language, I draw the line at some things. In the March 2011 edition, for example, heart became a verb: as in, “I heart my teddy bear”. That’s grammatical grand larceny.

I applaud their inclusion of updated modern terms like tweet, retweet, sexting and mankini because they’re all important facets of today’s world (well, perhaps not the mankini). But the point is that their use is well-defined and not an abomination of our language. One of my favourite newish words is hench, as in “Steve then lifted the car off me: he’s so hench”. Bravo youth!

The nerb

It’s not all good though. One place where I’m going to put my foot down is treating nouns as verbs simply for the sake of laziness. If I want to send someone a message using Facebook I will use the chat portion of the service if my friend is online at the same time, or write on their wall, or poke them, or send them a message.

What I will not do is Facebook someone, because it’s a non-specific term. There are a myriad ways I can communicate through Facebook — that’s its beauty — so to say “I’ll Facebook you later” conveys little meaning. Does that imply you should sit by your computer or FB app and wait for me to initiate a real-time chat? Or feverishly watch the screen until my message drops onto your public news feed? Or appears on your wall? Or in your inbox? It’s a nebulous term that can be expressed far more accurately with an extra word or two.

On that subject I will not be engaging in any of the following activities:

  • Facebooking myself for promotion purposes
  • Facebook a picture (I prefer to add it to my photo stream on Facebook)
  • Facebook a gig (I might promote it via Facebook)
  • Get Facebookitis (the debilitating illness of those addicted to social media)
  • Allow myself to be Facebooked by someone. It’s not transitive (nor is it intransitive; it’s not even a ruddy verb!)

Abusing language in this way reminds me of the awful trend when radio stations started taking up SMS as a means of communication. DJs — so used to saying “get in touch on the phone” — started saying “get in touch on the text” and it spread, infecting the airwaves like a strain of verbal herpes. In that case it can’t even be deemed lazy because the grammatically correct form of “get in touch by text” is shorter. I don’t get it.

Spoken abbreviations

It also appears that lol made an appearance in recent dictionaries. I use it. It’s an accepted form of abbreviation in written communication, despite confusing pensioners who might expect it to stand for lots of love (“sorry to hear about your best friend who died in that fiery crash, lol” seems somewhat heartless these days). But they should get used to it; after all, words like ‘bonk’, ‘gay’ and ‘wicked’ changed meaning — for the better, imo.

But notice the clause in the sentence above: in written communication. It’s a shorthand when typing to save fingers and future RSI troubles and should be confined to that usage; it’s not an excuse to pronounce it as if it were a word. If someone tells you a joke you find funny, the decent thing to do is actually laugh out loud with them, not say “that’s funny loll” or “rofl”. It just makes you sound emotionally insensitive and borderline retarded.

Sliding standards or legitimate linguistics?

If you’re concerned in any way at the Oxford board’s bent for downgrading nouns to verbs for the sake of laziness, or you simply want to bitch about declining standards in our wonderfully emotive — if awkward, idiomatic and downright confusing at times — English, feel free to comment below or +1 this.

Dammit. Is +1 a verb?

1 muppet jibber-jabbered

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