If in a fiction book I saw words “be4” and “there4” I would have thought that the book was a recent creation and an author was quoting an SMS message. Imagine my surprise when I found those words in Artemus Ward‘s Interview with President Lincoln written in XIX century. Ward was using them to imitate writing of an uneducated person. What once was a sign of illiteracy, in our days became a smart space-saving trick in electronic communications.
This thing repeats over and over again. What used to be a jailbird’s pride has become a fashionable skin adornment. Onetime shameful secrets are now worn on a sleeve. Ward’s story nicely puts the linguistic changes, that we observe now, in the same context. I won’t be in the least surprised if “be4”, or even “b4”, in 20 years time makes it in a dictionary, and in 50 years time the word “before” gets “archaic” tag. Moreover, I can easily imagine it will happen even earlier.
Anyone wants to know future trends? Don’t go to a fortune-teller – just check modern taboos.