Thanks to texting, chatting and tweeting, new abbreviations are being cooked up as fast as we can digest them.
It’s been said that you should ‘always keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them’. Well, these days it seems we’re all choking on letters. Lots of them. Big mouthfuls of indigestible consonants, especially.
In a world of reduced character spaces (and reduced attention spans) it’s inevitable that every word, syllable, in fact, every last letter must earn its keep on the screen.
Enter their faster, skinnier replacements: symbols; acronyms; pseudo-acronyms; initialisms; truncations; contractions; portmanteaux; emoticons; and phonetic substitutions. The devices themselves are not new; their use is just more prolific.
Of course, language is a living thing that has always been evolving. Expedience is nothing new either; just think: Morse Code, telegrams, shorthand. Even competition forms have always insisted that you “tell us in 25 words or less…” What IS new is the sheer scale of the transformation.
Over the last five to 15 years, the 160 and 140 character formats (respectively) have condensed language like never before. To the extent that a number of initialisms have moved easily from written to everyday spoken usage.
Now, even potential U.S. presidential candidates are uttering ‘WTF’ in interviews!
The ‘alphabet soup’ has indeed become a spicy gumbo of meaning and suggestion. IMO and BTW have paved the way for FAWC, FWB, IANAL, NIMBY and FUBB. The list is endless.
But wouldn’t a continuous string of uppercase letters be tantamount
to shouting? Perhaps all of this reckless use of CAPS amounts to a CAPITAL crime! (Or poor netiquette, at least.) For some, possibly.
In fact, it seems that certain simple expressions can definitely wind people up.
After conducting a quick survey, I found the main offenders were ‘FYI’ when spoken or used in emails snidely (or even thought to be); ‘LOL’ especially when it’s really not that funny (and funnily enough, it usually isn’t); or everyone’s favourite bugbear, the winking smiley face when employed to water down a pointed remark.
As for ‘OMG’, it’s now so hackneyed that it gets used – with lashings of irony – by people who don’t even like the term. Because if they did,
these ‘people’ would have to be referred to as ‘peeps’ – a word that also describes either (a.) moulded marshmallow bunny rabbits or (b.) voyeuristic live sex shows. So little wonder that many ‘peeps’ prefer ‘people’.
“Whatev”, I hear you say, “complete words are like sooo totally last millennium.”
Well maybe so, but what about accuracy? Sure, ‘L8’ may mean ‘late’ when it’s only substituting a sound, BUT as an initialism, it would read as ‘el-ate’ – quite the opposite effect really because, after all, who’s ever ‘happy’ about being ‘late’?
Let’s take a relatively new word, for example, such as ‘defriend’ (yeah, I know, ‘friend’ as a verb still irks me, too.) Now, it may never have come about if not for social networking. So maybe there does need to be a contextually precise word for absolutely everything. Up in the Canadian Arctic, the Inuit people have no fewer than 52 words for ‘snow’, whilst the Aztecs of Mexico had only one. Words, like most objects, tend to get invented on a need-to-use basis. If a culture feels it NEEDS the distinction, it’ll make one. Or two. Or ten.
And, how about popular culture’s recent appetite for word blends? Yes, it’s now expected that the savvy ‘metrosexual’ guy ‘manscape’ before carrying his ‘manbag’ on a ‘mandate’ to engage in a little… ‘bromance’.
A scenario that probably has a lot more to do with new product opportunities than it does any permanent shift in male behaviour. Because, after all, brands just love the portmanteau. Especially for themselves, e.g. Microsoft; Texaco; Nabisco; Rolodex; and so on.
So, will all of this abbreviating Dgener8 into a load of acronymous bosh?
Or will it serve the mother tongue well in the long run? After all, word creation was also practised by the likes of Lewis Carroll, James Joyce and Dr. Seuss.
U B the judge. Which examples of net slang do you find most useful? And which do you find most annoying? Any fresh ones to throw into the mix? Let us know.
Click here for an exhaustive glossary of abbreviations.