Is Texting Killing the English Language?

It’s a complex issue. Texting, in itself, isn’t a good or bad thing. In this short article and in his TED talk John McWhorter talks about why texting isn’t destroying writing or the English language. I tend to agree. However, there *are* other problems associated with it, in my opinion, having less to do with linguistics and more to do with cognitive control, and not so much about texting per se as the constant presence of smartphones in our lives.


Texting has long been bemoaned as the downfall of the written word, “penmanship for illiterates,” as one critic called it. To which the proper response is LOL. Texting properly isn’t writing at all — it’s actually more akin to spoken language. And it’s a “spoken” language that is getting richer and more complex by the year.

First, some historical perspective. Writing was only invented 5,500 years ago, whereas language probably traces back at least 80,000 years. Thus talking came first; writing is just an artifice that came along later. As such, the first writing was based on the way people talk, with short sentences — think of the Old Testament. However, while talk is largely subconscious and rapid, writing is deliberate and slow. Over time, writers took advantage of this and started crafting tapeworm sentences such as this one, from The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire: “The whole…

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Forget Delayed Gratification: What Kids Really Need Is Cognitive Control

Excellent (and, for me, vindicating) article about just how important cognitive control and the ability to focus is, a skill that I believe is rapidly being lost in today’s hyper-distracted environments.


By now, we’ve all heard about the famous marshmallow test, in which 4-year-olds are told they can either have the juicy one in front of them now, or two later. The 40-year-old experiment, which has been replicated using a variety of enticements, purports to prove that children who can delay gratification will meet with the most success in life. But fighting off impulses is just one part of a much broader and more predictive mental skill, one that scientists call cognitive control or the ability to manage your attention.

Cognitive control plays a central role in mental skills ranging from plain concentration and focus (on your homework, not that text from your BFF) to calming down after you get upset (say, when you finally read that text). A study published in 2011 tracked 1,000 children in New Zealand after rigorously testing them in elementary school for cognitive control. By their…

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Check out my new post about the meanings and lessons of Spider-Man to welcome the release of The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) on DVD and Blu-Ray.  At 

Real Super Powers

This is a short excerpt from a new post on my new blog, Pop Mythology.

People are always looking for shortcuts in life.  We want the cheat codes in which wealth, status, health and love will all magically fall into our laps.  Things like Get Rich Quick programs, Speed Seduction programs and 30-Day Body Transformation programs all fall under this rubric.

With no intention to offend anyone’s belief system, I believe that the whole “Create Your Own Reality” New Age movement, for instance (as exemplified by the bestselling book “The Secret,” which, to be fair, I’ve read), is a good example of this tendency.


My new blog,

Dear readers:

In a desire to collect accumulate a body of writings with a more focused theme, and to explore that theme deeper, I have started a new blog, will explore and discuss the perennial themes and ilfe lessons from works of contemporary pop culture via movies, graphic novels and even video games that recycle and repackage the great myths and legends from across time and space.  Moreover, it will suggest ways to implement these lessons in our own daily lives for that was always the true, hidden purpose of ancient myth.

You can read a little more on the “About” page.

The newest post for this new blog discusses some of the meanings and lessons behind the comic book character Captain America. 

The Dancing Paladin will still be my place for writing of a broader nature, with a greater variety of topics and themes.

Many thanks to all for the continued interest and support.

If you love comic books & pop culture, may interest you. (image: Marvel Studios)

To Eden With Grace

There is a great disconnect that exists between people of modern societies, particularly city-dwellers, and their food.  We are a supermarket generation.  We know little of where our food comes from or how it’s grown, made, raised or killed nor what is involved in any of these processes.

This disconnect isn’t just a minor, unfortunate consequence of modern life and its many conveniences.  It’s one of the genuinely tragic prices we’ve paid for those conveniences because a natural result of not knowing where our food comes from is a lack of appreciation for it – for the food itself and the earth that produces it as well as the industries and the people who cultivate it.

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Why Lance Armstrong Is Still a Winner (Just Not in Sports)

Photo:  JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images

Well, as we all know by now, seven-time Tour De France champion Lance Armstrong has suddenly and unexpectedly fallen from grace.

Or has he, really?  It all depends on the angle from which you view the issue.

For my part, I choose to adopt a perspective that I fear will be overlooked and underappreciated as legions of commentators, critics and disappointed fans skewer the once-celebrated athlete and celebrity.

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An Open Letter to Garbage

Dear members of Garbage,

On one level, this will simply be yet another one of countless fan letters you must get.  But what I hope you can appreciate is that, through your work, you touch millions but no single one of them in exactly the same way such that each expression of gratitude is, in its own way, fresh and unique.  This is the true beauty and majesty of art in that it affects each individual in a profoundly personal way according to the experience and circumstances of that individual at that particular point in space/time.

For the sake of brevity, I cannot even begin to go into detail of all the different ways in which I feel gratitude towards you right now and why.  For what it’s worth, however, as an unknown writer whose sole talent is the written word I have only this letter at my disposal.  And in the off-chance that one of you might actually see it, I will make this as mercifully brief and to-the-point as possible.

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You Were Born a Star

For quite some time now, I’ve had this certain belief that may come across as slightly loony to some.  You see, I believe that everyone is, deep down, a star.  (As in a celebrity).  Yes, that’s right.  I believe everyone’s a celebrity in divine disguise.  The vast majority don’t realize it, but it’s true.

I had always wanted to write an essay about this, but I was finally galvanized into doing so while recently listening to Lady GaGa’s newest single, “Born This Way.”  I tell you, this is no pop song.  It’s a channeled transcription from Divinity.  It is the sound of a soul claiming the destiny it was born into a human body to fulfill:  that of inspiring people to claim their birthright as stars in their own right.

My Mama told me when I was young / We are all born superstars,” the song begins.  The moment I heard those lines I already knew this song was going to send my heart soaring into the stratosphere and beyond.  And I was right.

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How to Have Greater Emotional Fulfillment in Friendships

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I thought I might write something that was in some way relevant to the theme of love, especially romantic love. Personally, I barely even notice V. Day’s coming and going.  But the fact is that for a lot of people, especially the youth, it does mean something and I respect that.  If they’re in a relationship, it’s a day to celebrate their love.  If they’re not, it can become an annoying reminder of their single status.  This is why, on holidays, a lot of young single people want to hang out with other single friends.  It’s a way to shield themselves from the feelings of lack or loneliness.

For many, holidays can exacerbate feelings of loneliness.

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