irI5H iNd3p3nD3N7 opts for text speak in housing market article

Today’s Irish Independent features the truly bizarre use of “txtspk” on two occasions in an article on declining consumer confidence in the Irish housing market.

The offending piece is here (free registration required), a screen grab of the two sentences is available here while I’m awaiting a copy of the print edition to scan (anyone who has one, I’d be much obliged if you could email a scan over – thanks!).

The follow are quotes of the lines in question:

And the housing market is set to bear the brunt of the new-found gloom, with the number of people who in10d to buy a house this year at its lowest level for a decade. (2nd paragraph)

and

Worried borrowers are now bat10ing down the hatches, with more of those who have a maturing SSIA choosing to save. (13th paragraph)

[my own emphasis added in both instances]

So what is the possible reasoning behind this? It’s hard to believe that the newspaper intentionally included these alterations as part of some editorial decision and while there is a case in highlighting the overt decline in quality of The Irish Independent’s content in recent years, there’s little to believe that it, or any other newspaper would resort to language and wording even lower down the intellectual scale than common slang.

Was it Charlie Weston’s doing? Unlikely. For a start, why on Earth would he or any journalist drop in two isolated pieces of text speak into an otherwise normal article, unless they were doing so in a feature on the issue of texting, modern language usage or the decline in spelling ability amongst young people etc.? In other words, there was no reason for it and no benefit in having it there.

Perhaps he just made an error? Well, even the most hardened texter would have different habits on a QWERTY keyboard than on a phone’s numberpad and one that uses a keyboard for a living (and probably has spell check) would surely find it more difficult to make such a mistake than overlook it. Couple this with the fact that his final text is passed by a number of eyes on the sub’s desk once he’s had his way with it, you’d come to realise that him missing such an obvious mistake is unlikely but many others (trained specifically to spot these things) doing the same afterwards is pretty implausible.

So what about the subs themselves? Could they have missed it, or made the mistake themselves? Again, they’re trained to spot these things and it’s hard to believe that they would somehow turn the right word into a completely mutated version of itself, or fail to spot numbers in the middle of letters… a ‘z’ instead of an ‘s’, or a jumbled ‘a’ and ‘e’ is one thing, missing vowels and additional numbers is a completely different story.
So maybe it was intentionally put it in there as a shorthand with the intention of it being changed before printing… but that doesn’t make sense either. Why would it be put in as it was when (as a friend pointed out to me) both instances are only 1 character shorter than the correct version of their respective words? What kind of useless shorthand is that? And why would someone purposely make something incorrect in order to change it later? It’s unlikely that any of the people in the process weren’t sure of the correct spelling and left it wrong in the hope that someone else would correct it later (again, spell check and the fact that they’re straight-forward words), so that’s hard to believe also.

There’s only one explainable conclusion that I can come to and that’s that it was a joke by someone in there. Who knows? Maybe some sub decided to kick the Indo management in the nuts for their plans to make them all redundant in the near future. Or maybe it was someone’s last day and decided to have some fun while they still can.

Either that or the editing policy of Ireland’s biggest daily newspaper has fallen to pieces in a very obvious and public way. Let’s hope this doesn’t catch on.

Update: Looks like Una was on the ball well ahead of me this morning – also worth mentioning that it was brought to my attention by this thread on the News/Media forum of boards.ie

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