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story.lead_photo.caption Seniors from the newly renamed Savannah Janine Shields High School in Fatyetteville raise their cellphones when asked how many never leave home without them.Fayetteville-born Otus the Head Cat’s award-winning column of humorous fabrication appears every Saturday.

Dear Otus,

I am at my wit's end. And that wasn't a very long road to begin with.

I just received a text message from my 19-year-old niece that consisted of five emojis and and four exclamation points. I have no idea what she was trying to say. The message indicated it was sent from her mobile phone, so she was probably driving as well.

I'm a retired middle school English teacher and if you combine this with the current move to ban the teaching of cursive, along with a president who uses Twitter like he's 14, I fear for the future of the language. Is there any hope?

-- Sharon Norbury,


Dear Sharon,

It was wholly a pleasure to hear from you and a further pleasure that you sent your handwritten query on an ecru Banbury Duogram folded note card embossed with your initials. And you actually bought a stamp to mail it.

I shall treasure this relic of a bygone era. I may even frame it. You have my deepest admiration and appreciation.

As someone who has been in the communication business for 37 years, I, also, am disturbed by the growing bastardization of the language.

I weep for our country's future every time I read about 60 percent of another college freshman class requiring remedial work in basic English. This is, after all, my first language, and until Esperanto becomes the accepted norm, still the best way for all right-thinking Americans to communicate with one another.

There is no place in American English (or "Ameriglish," as the academicians call it) for emojis or their predecessor emoticons -- :-) and :-( for smiling and frowning, e.g. If one wants to indicate cachinnation, simply use the word instead of the laughing emoticon.

Ameriglish is a rich, vibrant and fluid language that contains such marvelous words as "esplanade," "knurl" and "sashay." Just saying such words delights the tongue.

Ameriglish has never been reticent about borrowing a good word from any source. America's indigenous peoples gave us papoose, hominy and podunk (as well as the names for 26 states); early Spanish settlers provided coyote and barbecue; the Dutch added boss, coleslaw, waffle and Santa Claus.

However, it is precisely that malleable essence -- the je ne sais quoi (pardon my French) -- of American English that frustrates so many young people and keeps them out of the linguistic loop.

There is something pristine and rejuvenating about the old-fashioned, pre-internet method of sitting down with pen and paper and writing out one's thoughts in longhand. Since it is somewhat of a chore, writers take their time to be more precise in their word choices so that their meanings are clear.

Email is the bane of clarity. The convenience of instantaneous communication has always been a detriment to precision. For example, let's say you email someone a question and the response is "Yeah. Right. I'm sure." Does this mean, "Yes. Correct. I am positive," or does the answer drip with sarcasm and derision, and mean just the opposite?

Add a little winky-face emoji to indicate the latter.

Tweets and the like may seem novel and amusing, but they hardly foster communication. My fear is that a new generation of texting young folks lacking the most basic writing skills will eschew newspapers and turn to online blogs for their unvetted information.

The internet quagmire is where we get such headlines as these:

"Include your children when baking cookies"; "Iraqi head seeks arms"; "Prostitutes appeal to pope"; "American left waffles on Pakistan"; "Eye drops off shelf"; "Trump wins on tax reform, but more lies ahead"; "Miners refuse to work after death"; and "Stolen painting found by tree."

Other recent examples:

"Cold wave linked to temperatures"; "Statistics show teen pregnancy drops off significantly after age 25"; "Red tape holds up new bridge"; "Kids make nutritious snacks"; "Man struck by lightning faces battery charge"; "Federal agents raid gun shop, find weapons."

I think you get the picture, Sharon. I feel your pain.

Until next time, Kalaka urges you to hug a veteran today and ponder this deep thought: "If one tries to fail and succeeds, which has one accomplished?"


Fayetteville-born Otus the Head Cat's award-winning column of

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appears every Saturday. Email:

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HomeStyle on 11/11/2017

Print Headline: Ameriglish a great substitute for cursed emojis

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