Margaret Atwood on Why Twitter Won’t Destroy the English Language

Born in 1939, acclaimed Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood isn’t young – but that hasn’t stopped her from embracing modern technology.

In fact, Atwood is passionate about technology and its impact on society. Last year she collaborated with Toronto’s Wattpad, for example. And at any given time, Atwood has some profound opinions on today’s technology.

In an interview with Hazlitt, the award-winning author opines that “we’re in the early typewriter stage of the internet,” adding that “every minute somebody has some new idea,” a nod to the thriving entrepreneurial mindset of modern generations.

When asked how she thinks the evolution of technology changes the way we communicate, Atwood comes back with an unexpected response: “does it?” It’s a common argument that texting and Twitter are slaughtering the English language, but Atwood offers an effortlessly logical counter to the notion:

You get a lot of nonsense about, “Won’t Twitter destroy English language?” Well, did the telegram destroy the English language? No. People wrote in Telegram-ese because you paid by the word. So they wrote these cryptic condensed things. But they didn’t talk like that any more than I’m talking to you in 140 characters. So it is a short form communication method, like writing on washroom walls. Or like Romans writing graffiti back in Rome, or Vikings writing runes on the walls of tombs they had broken into. You weren’t going to write a novel on the wall of a tomb. But you were going to write “Thorfeld was here,” which is pretty much what they wrote. “Found no treasure. Shit.”

The quick-witted 73-year-old goes on to argue that even the hand-written, snail-mailed letter will make a comeback, partly because the internet has its flaws: “the Kremlin is going back to typewriters, because the Internet leaks like a sieve.”