When Text Speak Enters Our Spoken Conversations

by Mary Ann Mazey

Published at 2014-01-14

There’s no question that, for better or worse, texting has brought about a whole new kind of written communication. Certainly, the way we speak heavily influences the way we text.
But what should we think about our increasing tendency to speak the way we text?
Some Examples
A former colleague of mine was fond of saying "BRB" when she left the office. While there's absolutely no doubt that she, a word nerd like myself, meant it as a purely tongue-in-cheek remark, it did get me reflecting on the extent to which social media-speak and text-speak have squirmed their way into our everyday speech.
I love to hear friends with graduate degrees in English literature say things like “obvi” and “probs.” But at least these examples serve the same practical purpose in speech as they do in text, in that they are shorter and faster expressions of “obviously” and “probably.”
It is in cases like BRB where we see the potential for text-speak to become ubiquitous in verbal conversation. Unless, like my former colleague, you mean it to effect a comic response, there is no practical reason to say "BRB."  Is it any more difficult or time-consuming to say the three syllables in “be right back” than the three syllables in “BRB”?
I have not yet heard someone genuinely say “LOL” in conversation instead of doing it, but I have braced myself for that inevitable awfulness. I’ve considered pushing the boundaries of overlap between verbal and text-ual communication by registering a positive response in face-to-face conversation by uttering, facial expression unchanged, "colon, close parentheses."
Okay, that’s an extreme example, and I’m “jay-kay, obvi.” Somehow I don't think the verbalization of emoticons will catch on as a replacement for the actual expression of emotion (or, for all my fellow English-degree holders out there, that the signifier will actually displace the sign).
Although it wasn’t so long ago that I would have LOLed if someone told me that saying “hashtag” would become an acceptable way to verbally introduce an aside.