Mike and Diane Wilson -
Free Spirit

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Letters or Symbols?

I really object to the use of “@” @s @ repl@cement for the letter “a” in “sm@rt @nd trendy” internet comp@ny n@mes (The Book Pl@ce is the first culprit I’ve seen).

How is “Pl@ce” pronounced? Playce or Platseh (to rhyme with 'the')? The symbol “@” is a “commercial at,” used in finance and book-keeping: 100 apples @ 30p ea. = £30. This should appear, in correctly written English, as: One hundred apples at thirty pence each equals £30.

In some inst@nces, we @ll underst@nd “***” to st@nd for “f-u-c” in the word ***k. @re we to ren@me @ll those pretty flowers ***hsi@s?

Does it m@tter? Well, for me it does. We h@ve progressed @ long w@y since Sh@kespe@re could spell his n@me just @s he wished. If, for ex@mple, we now@d@ys referred to @ Sh@kespe@r without the fin@l “e” could we be sure we me@nt Willi@m Sh@kespe@re? No! We h@ve the benefit of @ st&@rdised spelling so everyone is in no doubt wh@t is me@nt.

If the trend continues in the use of m@them@tic@l signs inste@d of letters when will we st@rt re@ding “The ×”? Will MFI @dvertise “+h sof@s”? Or will Mr Kipling make @pple µes? Will Yorkshiremen e@t µkelets instead of crumpets? Will nuns be µous? (I've had to resort to the symbol "µ" because I cannot find the correct symbol for the Greek letter "pi").

I’m bored with being trendy, so back to reality! I accept that TV programmes describing “The Joy of Text” were dealing with one specific use of our language. But let’s not all jump on the bandwagon. There is a place for this mangling of English I suppose but not in written or printed work. The transitory text message is one thing, the work of literature or information is another. And surely for clarity we need a universally understood set of characters.

Another character often currently misused is “&.” Traditionally, this character (called an ampersand) was used only in titles of companies: Smith & Jones. Now, unfortunately, it appears in general use in text in all manner of documents: “. . . in all parts of Yorkshire & the north.” How soon will it be before we see signs outside cafés for “Egg S&wiches, Cheese S&wiches, etc.”?

Or when will we see a florist advertising @c@ci@s along with his ***hsi@s? Or st&ard roses? Will policemen start £ing the beat?

Apostrophes indicate a missing letter or letters as we all know. But there are rules in English covering these instances. But what did the apostrophe mean in the pop group Hear’Say? Absolutely nothing. Where do you hyphenate the word, before or after? What purpose did it serve, other than to annoy traditionalists like me? Or was someone suggesting that the band had something missing – like talent?

The argument in favour of using symbols could go further. Why not use “?” and “!” as follows: “The police ?ed the prisoner,” or “ ‘It’s hot,’ he !”

Personally, I draw the line at “npower,” the sponsors of cricket, and why e e cummings and k d lang decided their names should be in lower case baffles me entirely. I see no reason to deny that proper nouns begin with a capital letter.

For me, there is absolutely no benefit to be gained abusing the 26 letters we have inherited. We have lost the long “s” and diphthongs “ĉ” and “œ” in modernising the alphabet. Why step backwards and start using unnecessary symbols in place of the current English letters? Partly these misuses have arisen through the use of computers. Anyone can now create their own material, and the traditions and guidelines of 550 years of typesetting are being neglected. If the current trend continues, don’t be surprised if we revert back to our work being totally unintelligible as we each use words in our own way.

Remember, our twenty-six English letters are referred to in the saying: “With twenty-six lead soldiers I can rule the world.” Why weaken them for the sake of being trendy?

Bridlington has an Internet C@fé! and a life insurance from Royal & Sun Alliance is called MORE TH>N. What’s the point? What do you think? Am I being old-fashioned and behind the times? It wouldn’t surprise me in the least!

Mike Wilson