Tuesday, October 24, 2006
‘On Language’ 10/18: If U chat, not everyone speaks your language
“These abhorrent abbreviations are nothing less than an insidious linguistic plague,” wrote student Patrick Hogan in the University of Chicago’s newspaper, Chicago Maroon. He was complaining about instant-messaging lingo such as “LOL” (“laughing out loud”) and “TTYL” (“talk to you later”).
But how widespread is chat slang among young people? The publishing and online worlds offer plenty of reference material to help you translate abbreviations and slang words used in Web chats and text messages.
I, however, went straight to the source. I took a list of chat slang and did an informal survey of almost 150 students, about half in high school and half in college. Everybody recognized a few of the abbreviations but many of the items stumped them. Are they behind the times, or so ahead of the times that this list is already out of date?
Or has chat slang yet to go mainstream even among young people? As one student wrote, “I hate IM abbreviations, but all my younger sibs use them.”
Here’s what I found:
Update: Grant Barrett writes by e-mail:
The conclusion to make here is a bit further than you’ve taken it: the problem with the “chat slang” lists isn’t that the terms haven’t spread, it’s that most of them are baloney. Most such lists are filled with nonce terms, stunt words, and sniglets and do not in any way represent real chat usage. Particularly horrific—especially from a lexicographical standpoint—are the ones circulated as tools to “protect your children,” because they do not protect the children from anything or anyone. They are merely public relations crutches for businesses or groups (including police) that have lame expertise in online crime, online language, or online use of communications.