Gr8 Bks in 120 Chrctrs or Lss

Sunday, November 27, 2005

devl kikd outa hevn coz jelus of jesus&strts war.pd'off wiv god so corupts man(md by god) wiv apel.devl stays serpnt 4hole life&man ruind. Woe un2mnkind.

Having a little trouble making sense of the array of letters and symbols displayed above and on the cell phone screen featured on Outlook's front page? Here's a hint: It's a synopsis of John Milton's "Paradise Lost" written in the form of a text message -- the kind of condensed missive that teenagers send from their phones.

This new thumb-typed e-lingo isn't easily categorized, as John Sutherland, professor emeritus of English at University College London, points out: Is it a code (like Morse), a dialect (like Cockney), an invented language (like Esperanto) or maybe an adolescent fad (kinda like Valley Speak)? Leaving the exact classification up to the sociolinguists, Sutherland suggests that "texting" is primarily a form of shorthand (like Pitman). "Obviously, all language is shorthand," Sutherland says, "and this is shorter hand than most." It is also ubiquitous (like, er, Everywhere) on European campuses these days.

Now, a British cell phone service that is marketed to students has enlisted Sutherland to help create text-message summaries of classic works of literature. Its goal, the company says, is to provide students with plots and key quotes in digestible bytes as they review for exams. By January, Dot Mobile hopes to have several txtbks ready, including synopses of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" and Charles Dickens's "Bleak House."

If reducing the 1,067 pages of "Bleak House" (that's the two volumes of Scribner's 1902 edition) to a cell phone screen sounds like a bit of a squeeze, Sutherland says Dickens himself "began working life as a shorthand writer and he would, I suspect have approved of the brevity if nothing else." His aim in backing the project, says Sutherland, who is currently a visiting professor of literature at California Institute of Technology , is to bring the innovative art of texting into the educational tent: "When you're reduced to 120 characters," which is what most providers permit per message, "you can't waste time on superfluous vowels and strange English spellings." Students develop their own personal styles, or idiolects, drawing heavily on more or less familiar symbols (@ meaning "at"), emoticons (:-S meaning "confused") and acronyms (AFAIK, meaning "as far as I know").

Dot Mobile, meanwhile, apparently has boundless ambitions for its shrunken storylines and hopes to make Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales" available to students by April (oh, yes, along with the "Complete Works of Shakespeare").

So try your hand at deciphering the following text-plots and quotations, remembering that they reflect the London argot of their student writers. To help you on your way, here's the translation of the "Paradise Lost" summary: "The devil is kicked out of heaven because he is jealous of Jesus and starts a war. He is angry with God and so corrupts man (who is made by God) with an apple. The devil remains a serpent for the whole of his life and man is ruined. Woe unto mankind."

Gd lk! :)

-- Frances Stead Sellers, Outlook assistant editor

PLOTS:

1

5SistrsWntngHsbnds.

NwMenInTwn-Bingly

&DarcyFit&Loadd.BigSis

JaneFals4B,2ndSisLiz

H8sDCozHesProud.

SlimySoljrWikamSysD

HSShadyPast.TrnsOut

HesActulyARlyNysGuy&

RlyFancysLiz.SheDecyd

SheLyksHim.Evry1Gts

Maryd.

2

NuclearWar-2boys

Ralph&PigyFormGrup2

reviveOldCultr.

Jack-oposnLeadr-Taks

R'sSuporters Away.

MystryBeastOnIsland

CauzsPanicBtSimon

FindsOutTisOnlyA

Parachute.Jtries2kil

RbtR's savd ByShipDat

c's emergncySmoke.

3

EstherBecumsWard

OfJarndyceWhosInCort

Case.OvaWardsRich&Ada(L8aACuple).Tulkinghorn-nosyLawyer-WorksOut

LadyDedlock=E'sMum.

CaseEnds w/no1 gtn money.E marrysSexy

Doc-Liv2gevaInBleak

Hse.Rich&L.DedlockDie.

4

PlainOrfanJaneBcums

Guvunes@Thornfield.

J&MrRochster(eventuly)Fal4EachOtha.Bt,Day

OfWedin,ItTurnsOutHe

AlredyHasAWyfInThAtik HuIsMad.MadWyfSets

Fyr2Haus.YrsL8aJFynds

MrR-Blind&WidowdAfta

Fyr.TheyGetMaryd.

QUOTES:

5

InMyYungr&vulnrblYrs

MyFthrGavMeSumAdvys

DatIvBnTrninOvaInMy

MindEvaSync.'Weneva

UFeelLykDissinNe1,jst

MembaDatAlDaPplnDa

WrldHvntHdDaVantgs

UvAd.'

6

IfURlyWnt2HrBoutIt

Da1stFingProbWnt2No

IsWherIWsBorn&

WotMyLousyChldhd

WsLyk&HwMyRents

WerOcupyd&AlB4TheyHd

Me&AlThtDave Copafield

KindCr@p,BtIDnFeelLyk

GoinIntaItIfUWannaNo

DaTruf.

7

2b? Nt2b? = ???

8

Ahors, ",m'kngdom 4"

(The " sign here means ditto, indicating that a word or

phrase is being repeated.)

1. Plot of "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen: Five sisters wanting husbands. There are two new men in town -- Bingley and Darcy. They are handsome and wealthy. Big sister Jane falls for Bingley but second sister Elizabeth hates Darcy because he is proud. Slimy soldier Wickham says that Darcy has a shady past. It turns out that he's actually a really nice guy and really fancies Elizabeth. She decides that she likes him. Everyone gets married.

2. Plot of "Lord of the Flies" by William Golding: Nuclear War -- two boys, Ralph and Piggy, form a group to revive the old culture. Jack-- the leader of an opposing group -- takes Ralph's supporters away. A mystery beast on the island causes panic but Simon finds out it is only a parachute. Jack tries to kill Ralph but Ralph is saved by a ship that has seen the emergency smoke.

3. Plot of "Bleak House" by Charles Dickens : Esther becomes the ward of Jarndyce who is involved in a court case over wards Richard and Ada (who are later a couple). Tulkinghorn -- a nosy lawyer -- works out that Lady Dedlock is Esther's mother. The case is concluded with no one receiving any money. Esther marries the sexy doctor and they live together in Bleak House. Richard and Lady Dedlock die.

4. Plot of "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte: Plain orphan Jane becomes the governess at Thornfield. Jane and Mr. Rochester (eventually) fall for each other. But, on the day of the wedding, it turns out that he already has a wife in the attic who is mad. The mad wife sets fire to the house. Years later Jane finds Mr. Rochester blind and widowed after the fire. They get married.

5 . Quote from "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald : "In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. 'Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,' he told me, 'just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had.' "

6. Quote from "The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger: "If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth."

7. Quote from "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare : "To be or not to be, that is the question."

8. Quote from "Richard III" by William Shakespeare: "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse."

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