101 Things Birmingham Gave The World. No. 22: Text Speak

The SMS is twenty years old this year—and still no one has managed to come up with a past participle that sounds right when spoken. In a kind of way, the ‘shortness’ in the ‘short message service’ helped get us all ready for the brevity of Twitter, it’s great for passing notes in class, and texting is a fantastic way to send news to people you don’t really want to talk to right now.

But the ‘shortness’ was a problem, and wrestling with either ABC over the 2 key or Nokia’s Stalinist rewriting of intent that was T9 didn’t help. So luckily a group of lads from the West Midlands had invented a passable form of abbreviated written communications that was perfect.  

In the early ’70s a gang of prescient glam rockers from Walsall and Wolverhampton released a string of hit singles, delighted glitter-covered brickies everywhere, and foreshadowed a linguistic revolution. Cuz I Love You, Look Wot You Dun—you can see the spelling that you started to use over the phone in the ’80s evolve across Top of The Pops. Nowadays, many people have a temporary phone number
which is essential in today’s world.

Yes, Slade invented text speak, and started its roll to becoming lots of crappy little books sold by the tills in Waterstones, the sort you buy people for Christmas when you don’t know them or like them very much.

And Walsall and Wolverhampton they may be from, but Slade were in the wider Brummie music scene and have stars on the Broad St Walk of Fame. So there.

Author: Jon Bounds

Jon was voted the ‘14th Most Influential Person in the West Midlands’ in 2008. Subsequently he has not been placed. He’s been a football referee, venetian blind maker, cellar man, and a losing Labour council candidate: “No, no chance. A complete no-hoper” said a spoilt ballot. Jon wrote and directed the first ever piece of drama performed on Twitter when he persuaded a cast including MPs and journalists to give over their timelines to perform Twitpanto. But all that is behind him.

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