Sometimes it’ll be late at night. I’ll be chatting to friends on Facebook, catching up before going asleep at the end of another busy day. I’ll get to saying goodbye and goodnight. Increasingly, when I have said this, I have been met with a response particularly from my Vietnamese friends which is gradually starting to bother me more and more:
I didn’t realize it was bothering me until last night, when three separate people said ‘G9’ to me on Facebook. As they did, my OCD came roaring to the surface, because I realized that, technically, ‘G9’ makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
Think about it. You’re trying to say ‘Goodnight’. So why are you in fact typing ‘Goodnine’? I know Vietnamese speakers struggle particularly with final ‘s’ and final ‘t’ endings. But that’s supposed to be in spoken language, and it is broadly understandable when you realize the Vietnamese language contains fewer such phonemes.
Is it really ok for this allergy to pronouncing the full word to creep into written language as well?
I had a lengthy rant about this to my Vietnamese teacher this morning, who confessed to also writing ‘G9’ as a shorthand for ‘goodnight’. She didn’t seem to think it mattered, and when I got to thinking about it, I could sort of see what she meant.
Thus I’m left ambiguous. The pragmatic linguist in me, which wins out more often than not, says that the whole point of language is to speak and be understood. If you do both of these then you are successfully communicating, and precision and accuracy are secondary to the more general need to simply be able to convey an idea through language. If you say ‘G9’ to me, I understand what you mean absolutely 100%. So that’s ok, right?
…this is where my pragmatic linguist clashes head on with my equally imposing English teacher OCDism. Because whilst ‘G9’ is indeed a very effective way of communicating an idea, it is also, surely, very simply, wrong? If a student of mine uttered the word ‘goodnine’, I’d have them sat for ten minutes drilling ‘goodnighT’ over and over and over until they were perfectly flicking out that final ‘T’ (notwithstanding the fact that my own Liverpool accent also neglects the ‘T’ ending, which makes me both a phonophile and a hypocrite…).
I still can’t figure out whether I’m right to let this bother me so much. Although I suspect I am letting it get to me, and there are probably some more important things to worry about.