When yesterday I got an email signed “rgds,” a trite valediction closing an email to a group of professionals, I stopped. Rgds? Really? Was the email author intending to communicate a familiarity with his audience by dropping the vowels, or simply just a level of tired sophistication with the keyboard—too familiar with typing that vowels were an interference and, therefore, a waste of time between us. Or was it simply that everything is now bound by constraints even when we are constraintless?
No matter the reason, vowels are the victims, and it seemed fitting to compose a quick ode in response.
Ode To Vowels
To what consonant altar have we subscribed to?
And what innocent A E I O or U has been sacrificed?
Thou still impoverished and vanishing ever more quickly,
Dear friends! Who can now explain,
The reason more aptly than our current style:
Why we’ve simply banished the unaware vowel?
Just as quickly as we forget E-I-E-I-O, we adopt truncation,
In email, we sign “rgrds;” in retribution, we give “thx,”
Too much in a hurry to round out the fuller sounds.
What mad pursuit do consonants offer? What ecstasy might they bring?
If “I before E except after C” is relinquished to “merely C,”
What substance do we have left before?
By three months, infants are able to make vowel-like noises. Children then develop a receptive vocabulary before they develop an expressive vocabulary. In other words, they can understand language long before they can speak. Between 4-5 months old, e.g., they can respond to their own name. (Crying doesn’t count as language.)
Thanks to Keats.