People have been shortening words into abbreviations and acronyms for centuries (IOU, an acronym for "I owe you," was coined in 1618), and Victorian poets, those beacons of propriety, were writing abbreviated poetry 150 years ago.
Instead of calling it the death of the English language, though, they called it emblematic poetry and valued it as a clever form of posy. The British Library is preparing an exhibit devoted to the English language of the last 1,500 years. One piece will be an emblematic poem from 1867 called "An Essay to Miss Catherine Jay."
Here are a few choice lines.
- To U, sweet K T J (Katie J, I presume?)
- I wrote 2 U B 4
- He says he loves U 2 X S.
- U R virtuous and Y's
- Now fare you well dear K T J.
- In X L N C U X L
X L N C U X L? I don't know either!