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The Internet is changing the landscape of Global communication

l33tspeak

At some point during the last 10 years of this computer age, spelling and grammatical accuracy got tossed aside, phrases got shortened to two-finger tappables like “CU l8r”, and a whole new lexicon of ever-expanding nerd words like “w00t”, “l337”, “n00b” moved from underground Internet forums to mainstream media and your e-mail inbox.

More and more we see the Internet shaping the way we communicate with each other. The language of the Internet is fast-paced, constantly changing, and rich with cynicism and rebellion. After all, the age group developing and propagating this new iSpeak is Internet savvy teenagers belonging to Gen Z or the “Google Generation.” These kids grew up on the web, texting their friends in kindergarten, pirating mp3s for their iPods before puberty and coding complex websites during high-school geography class.

Gen Z is not afraid of breaking rules or experimenting with language. Just look at the plethora of fabulous spellings for the frequently used teen phrase “this sucks” in Internet slang, or LeetSpeak. There is “teh suxs” for everyday usage, “suxx0rz” for really bad suckage, or “suxxaga” when things just can’t suck any worse.

At first it may seem like there is no rhyme nor reason to these derivations, but like any linguistic code, it has a pattern. Once you know the pattern, it oesn’t-day, uck-say. What? No one remembers Pig Latin? Even if you are a complete n00b (“newbie”) on the Internet you will have run into your fair share of LOLs and emoticons, like this smiley, winking guy, ; ).

Whether you know the exact translation as “laugh out loud” or not, the meaning of LOL is universal. No matter where you are in the world, LOL means “I’m laughing”, while :( means “I’m sad.” This guy “:P” will get you out of a lot of trouble if you have the tendency to make snarky remarks that easily offend people — but I wouldn’t know anything about that.

The days of ruthlessly guarded spelling and grammar rules of our parents’ generation are slowly slipping away. With that being said, I am a bit of a stickler for grammar, and I’ll admit to a 50-per-cent increase in pulse rate when I see a beautifully crafted sentence like this one written on my Facebook wall: “i love your photo’s, their really good.” That was actually written by a high-school English teacher, so go figure. I’ve just had to let my Nancy Know-It-All tendencies slide a little and embrace the positives in this linguistic evolution.

So, for better or worse, the Internet is dramatically changing the landscape of human communication.

I see the evolution of language on the web as progress, rather than a slap in the face of steadfast English grammar rules. After all, we are a global community now. It’s time we start to think laterally in terms of language and communication. Plus, I never wuz a gr8 spellr anyway.

What do you think? Is our growing Internet language helping or hindering global communication?

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21 Comments

  • Reply
    Masey
    October 6, 2008 at 1:16 PM

    “pirating mp3s for their iPods before puberty…” – nice use of alliteration and a fine article overall.

    Perez Hilton will be letting out a huge sigh of relief after getting off the hook this week eh? ;)

  • Reply
    Gregg
    October 6, 2008 at 1:43 PM

    I have no problem when two people want to communicate in this manner. The problem I see is when people cannot discern when it is proper to use such methods.

    At work, where we represent a Fortune 500 company, it actually seems that a lot of the younger generation does not seem to understand basics like punctuation, capitalization, etc. In reviewing cases and shipments, I am constantly having to explain to people that they cannot send out items using the address “mega corp attn joe 123 south main street anytown pa 12345”. Similarly, they get offended when I tell them they have to quit using l33t speak and 500 word run-on sentences in their case notes. Asking them to hit the spell check button when they are finished also is foreign to them; if it makes sense to them then it is good enough and your problem if you have to interpret.

  • Reply
    Adam Jackson
    October 6, 2008 at 1:49 PM

    The web is certainly growing and helping communication. These days, it’s harder for people to hide behind avatars and proxy servers. The creeps of the past can’t hide like they used to.

    We are very transparent online. Even our comments are tied to a specific email address and our photos pop up in our comments thanks to systems like gravatar and Disqus.

    Also, making money online has gotten easier. I love today’s web and never ask myself how much connectivity is enough.

  • Reply
    Stephen Michael Kellat
    October 6, 2008 at 1:53 PM

    Dugg.

    Great piece. When can we get you writing for the Las Vegas Review-Journal? We need good writers down here.

  • Reply
    fotoeins
    October 6, 2008 at 2:05 PM

    However, if communication were truly global, for example, tenemos que hablar bestimmt eine Mischung aller Sprachen.

    (I apologize for having left out Cantonese Chinese, because that’s what I know, and I couldn’t figure out how to include the appropriate words in the present reply.)

  • Reply
    Stacey
    October 6, 2008 at 2:11 PM

    I’m from a British family with several generations of women who love grammar. My father is also an editor and writer. I have been the black sheep among these nit-pickers for years. My spelling is often pulled apart by my mother and my grammar still has my 91 year old Grannie saying “oi!” In Canadian college I was lucky to get a B in English so I really thought I was not a strong technical writer. Then I transferred to an American University. All of a sudden I was getting great marks and was correcting other student’s papers. Really nothing changed except the geography.

  • Reply
    M o
    October 6, 2008 at 2:12 PM

    I don’t know if it would help communication on the internetz (because I don’t know what it means to help communicate) but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t hinder (in general) any communication among those who want and try to communicate. Any language is a good language if the parties that are communicating can understand each other. I will disagree with the universality of the smileys or the LOL language (I’m pretty sure where you are matters). I also think that the mobile communication is the place some of those languages originated. Texting (or short messaging or SMS) is one of the most popular means of communications all over the world (maybe except north america) (partly because it is cheaper than actually calling someone). It is a lot easier to type and read (assuming you know the “language”) this way also you can cram more into the 160 character limit. But yeah, anyways, I forgot why I started writing this comment :o

  • Reply
    Keiron
    October 6, 2008 at 2:31 PM

    I have to admit, it drives me absolutely crackers trying to read it… And I work for a mobile comms company!!!

    I have younger family members that use that sort of stuff when they text me, and I always – always reply to them using normal english.

    In translation:

    I av 2 admit, make mad reading it.. Wrk for fone job!!!
    Yngr fmly do it, n I reply all proper!

  • Reply
    Tyler
    October 6, 2008 at 2:32 PM

    I have seen reports where students (elementary) know the QWERTY alphabet better then the regular English Alphabet.

    Which do you know better? lol

    I still find acronyms I use are not known to some people in my circle of influence. Such as AFK, BRB, RTFM etc. Since I spend the majority of my life with a computer (22+ yrs) I speak computer ;)

    Though I don’t use acronyms in regular conversation I do use them frequently with electronic media. If I am writing business emails etc, I will refrain from any acronyms or 1337 speak as that is just unprofessional. Though I have seen business send me emails in that aspect (and incorrectly used) and I just frown upon them.

  • Reply
    Miiitch
    October 6, 2008 at 3:39 PM

    Ahhhh, this article gets much love from me. I’m guilty of using a fair amount of these, but ask anyone and you’ll find that even my txt messages (yes, I say “txt” instead of text) almost always use a fully spelled-out word. I never use “c” for see, “u” for you, etc.. I do use LOL incessantly, and XD is by far my most used emoticon (if you don’t get it, turn your head 90 degrees to your left. It’s supposed to represent a laughing face… or something).

  • Reply
    Bill Dewberry
    October 6, 2008 at 7:05 PM

    HELP !!! I’m stranded in a foreign land of geeks, who only speek geekise– : P , LOL,
    BFF- Blimey- whats wrong with the queens’ english ? No, not that queen, the one in england! And hey, while I’m here, why not film vs that digital thingey, when 50 1,4 = 50 1.4 not 85 something or other. Bloody hell.

  • Reply
    Dennis Bjørn Petersen
    October 6, 2008 at 11:46 PM

    Since the “internet” words doesn’t replace any words, but are an addition, there is nothing wrong with that.

    On the contrary. I think it’s great that our vocabulary is expanded with words, that has a new and global meaning.

    Everyone from 9-90 knows what woot means (well if they play a MMORPG, they do)

  • Reply
    Mel
    October 7, 2008 at 5:37 AM

    I completely agree Lisa, as both a member of generation z and a grammar stickler. What happened to hahaha instead of a grand, ostentatious LAWL? I’m rather disappointed in my generation, what with their tendency to confuse the ‘theres’ and whatnot.
    And an English teacher said that to you?? What larks!

    To conclude, while some of the new speech is not *that* objectionable, you just can’t differentiate suxxorz from suxxaga in degrees of suckage. Just.. no. There is one English for a reason.

  • Reply
    Dave
    October 7, 2008 at 8:16 AM

    @Pasquale

    The fact that you took the time to craft an actual binary message is pretty rockin’… I mean 1337.

  • Reply
    August
    October 7, 2008 at 1:37 PM

    Alltså, all den här slangen är lite svår att förstå när man inte har engelska som förstaspråk. Jag menar: “1337” skulle ju lika gärna kunna betyda något annat än “fett bra”, om man inte är invigd, alltså…

  • Reply
    Mark
    October 7, 2008 at 10:20 PM

    It’s amazing what a photo of a cat with a stupid catchphrase can spawn.

  • Reply
    Tawcan
    October 8, 2008 at 9:28 AM

    Can’t say I have the best grammar out there but I do find it annoying reading these so called “new speak.” I mean it’s ok if you use common words/phrases like lol, pics, mins, etc. But using something like Keiron posted is just too much.

  • Reply
    Urban Dweller
    October 8, 2008 at 9:14 PM

    I’d have to agree with your point about grammar. I myself have seen my grammar take a beating. It was highly stressed to have proper grammar in University. However, since I work in a fast paced business environment grammar takes a back seat. As long as my point gets across in time everything is fine LOL.

    Excellent article, I enjoy all your stuff. Keep it up!!

  • Reply
    Melissa Yeuxdoux
    October 9, 2008 at 5:19 AM

    I don’t think complaints about spelling and grammar will go away–it’s just that what the complainers think is proper will change. One of the sources of our knowledge of the birth of the Romance languages is a William Safire/John Simon of long ago who wrote a list of Things Not To Say in proper Latin. (“It’s _equus_, dang it, not _caballus_!”)

    Give it a decade or so, and some blogger will post an entry starting out “Kidz grammar these days is teh suck!!!1!!!”

  • Reply
    Motion Groove
    October 9, 2008 at 12:04 PM

    I saw it in the Province, great job!!

  • Reply
    RBeezy
    October 10, 2008 at 4:31 PM

    net talk is basically the new Esperanto. it eases global online and mobile communication but it stupefies the masses, leaving them unable to properly communicate in whatever language they choose.

    so outside of the online/mobile forums, instead of “I understand”, you hear “WTF?”

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