OMG, text messaging! It’s destroying the English language, corrupting young minds, turning us into illiterates. It’s probably shrinking the ozone layer, too. Or is it? In his new book, Txting: The Gr8 Db8, David Crystal offers a different perspective, one which linguists have shared for years: Far from obliterating literacy, texting may actually improve it. So put that in your message header and send it!

This episode first aired September 27, 2008.

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 Texting Improves Literacy
OMG, text messaging! It’s destroying the English language, corrupting young minds, turning us into illiterates. It’s probably shrinking the ozone layer, too. Or is it? In his new book, Txting: The Gr8 Db8, David Crystal offers a different perspective, one which linguists have shared for years: Far from obliterating literacy, texting may actually improve it. So put that in your message header and send it!

 Au Jus Sauce
The French phrase au jus means with sauce, which is why it drives some diners to distraction when a menu lists beef with “au jus sauce.” A Wisconsin listener calls to say this phrase sets her teeth on edge. The hosts order up an answer fresh from the “Waiter, There’s a Redundancy in My Soup!” Department.

 Porcellus Domi
In medical parlance, your big toe is your hallux. But what about the other four? Do they have anatomical names as well? A San Diego man who hurt the toe next to his big toe is tired of referring to his injured digit as “the toe next to my big toe,” and wants the proper medical term. How does porcellus domi grab you? Prehensily?

 Curtailments Game
Quiz Guy John Chaneski presents a letter-shaving game called “Curtailments.” In this game, Grant and Martha leave everything on the floor.

 Name From Home
A caller from Stevens Point, Wisconsin, was puzzled when she moved there and locals asked, “What’s your name from home?” meaning, “What’s your maiden name?” The community has a strong Polish heritage and she wonders if there’s a connection. It’s a good hunch. Martha explains why.

 Holy vs. Unholy Terror
Say you have a particularly rambunctious child. Okay, a little hellion. Is it proper to describe the little devil as a holy terror? Or might it be more correct and more logical to call him an unholy terror? A Los Angeles caller thinks it’s the latter.

 Discombobulated
If you’ve flown from Milwaukee’s Mitchell International Airport recently, you may have noticed an odd but official-looking sign that reads: “RECOMBOBULATION AREA.” A caller from Madison was discombobulated to see it, then started wondering about the roots of such words.

 Texting Etiquette
The real problem with texting isn’t how it affects language, but what it does to social interaction. Is there anything more annoying when you’re trying to have a conversation than watching your companion’s eyes flitting to his phone when he sees that a text message just arrived? The hosts discuss the need for a new text-messaging etiquette.

 Hairy Eyeball
A caller wonders about a term used by her family when someone gives you a certain look: the hairy eyeball. Grant and Martha try to shed some light on the phrase.

 Diesel Therapy at O-Dark-Thirty
Let’s say that you’re getting diesel therapy at o-dark-thirty. What are you getting and when are you getting it? A New Jersey contestant from the National Puzzlers’ League learns the meaning of these terms in this week’s slang quiz.

 Portmanteau Word Blends
What do you call a word made from a blend of two other words, like motel from motor and hotel? A listener says his term for them is “Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup words,” after the old commercial: “You got chocolate in my peanut butter! You got peanut butter in my chocolate!” But he wonders if there’s another, more established term. The hosts introduce him to the word portmanteau.

 Text-Messaging Research
When it comes to text messaging and its effect on English, the linguistic apocalypse is not nigh. Quite the contrary, in fact. Grant talks about some eye-opening research about text-messaging and teen literacy.

This episode is hosted by Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett, and produced by Stefanie Levine.

Photo by Zoe. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Book Mentioned in the Broadcast

Txting: The Gr8 Db8 by David Crystal
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