Thursday, April 05, 2007

Totally UN-kewl

One of the many e-newsletters in my inbox today pointed me to an article at Folio magazine detailing a new magazine aimed at the so-called "tween" demographic. Magazine launches these days are often accompanied by a prediction of how long the new titles will last, given the imminent death of the printed word and the rise of internet culture. And, although it is a lovely gesture to devote an entire magazine to 10-12 year old girls, I am vehemently opposed to this one, before even considering its content.

Why, you might ask? You only have to look at the title: KEWL.

KEWL, published quarterly, will focus on celebrities (start 'em young!) and music (better - but it's probably not good music), and is part of a multi-platform brand that will include a TV show, Everything Kewl, and an interactive website,

But the multi-pronged attack isn't the issue here. In case you're confused (and if you're above the age of 20 or so, you probably are), "kewl" is synonymous with "cool," pronounced the same way. Hypothetically, it's the same word. For reasons unknown, the former, alternative spelling proliferated when the instant-messaging craze took hold of middle school students across the nation, negating years of Wordly Wise drills and obliterating the spelling skills of American youth.

What editor/literate person thought it was a good idea to sanction internetspeak for use in the real world by adopting KEWL as a brand? (One that targets an incredibly impressionable age group, at that.) Journalists - if this counts as journalism - ought to be more responsible than this. Adults in general ought to be more responsible than this, for the sake of educated youth and the future of American culture.

"Cool" is just a small word, and one of thousands employed in the parlance of our times; but when kids either can't or refuse to spell simple, monosyllabic words correctly, prospects for the future of intelligent publications start to look pretty bleak.

Abbreviated spellings and unfortunate phonetic interpretations tailored for internet use have distorted the written teenage vernacular, resulting in a popular lexicon of un-words. I for one hope Kewl is a spectacular failure (or at least an unsuccessful launch). If writers - of all sorts - don't stand up for the integrity of words and language, who will?

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