W00t! new linguistics on the net FTW!

Ok, I’m happy painting my life as a technology-loving geeky social network addict, it’s pretty easy because it’s true. I tweet and send pictures through my mobile on twitter and flickr, I am on facebook, qypeyoutube, ping.fm and I’m on other places where I can’t even remember my username – you get the idea, some of you are probably the same as me, or worse. 

You’d think I’d be right up there, jacked in to cyberspace, fully comprehending the internet and not even seeing the code, as it were.  Sadly, I’m nowhere near where I want to be – still far too lost in the ether that is the new net-speak, although I’m clawing back some comprehension every day.

Looking back through my (and others’) twitterstream, the linguistics of the internet is in the process of undergoing yet another evolution. I’m learning a whole new language in order to keep up with my much cooler and hipper online buddies.

The emoticons we’re familiar with since I joined the internet (or before), are everywhere, even my dad texts and emails with 🙂  : – ) and 😉  ; – )  .  Stuff like BRB is pretty easy to interpret and a rough knowledge of phonetics and/or a willingness to tilt your head to one side is enough to make a start on translating the rest.  

It’s all changed now there are so many new codes based on everything from gamer-speak to the economy of letters that Twitter’s 140-character limit has imposed. So what is the last resort of the enquiring mind?  I conclude that one needs to be either “in the know” or risk Urban Dictionary (and possible ridicule for choosing the wrong acronym) to find out the meaning and usage of the latest net-exclusive abbreviations.   

On to the reason for the post – this Wednesday, I’m going to be on the radio talking about the pressure to ‘keep up’ on the internet, not just emoticons and phraseology, but also keeping up with your facebook friends and your twitter chums.  I’d love to read what you think.

Do you feel anxious when you’ve not posted what you’re doing? Do you feel guilty if you haven’t blogged / updated your status for a while?  I’d also love to know whether you use acronyms such as FTW (or even WTF!) on the interwebs, whether you embrace it or can’t bear it, and if you have any good ones you can share with me…  Please feel free to leave your comments, and try to make sure that they are SFW 🙂 kthxbai

p.s. you can listen live to the show on BBC Radio Scotland at 10.30 GMT on 15th April 2009.


Mini Glossary for n00bs

w00t! (with zeros instead of O’s, although this font doesn’t show it as well as the header) gamer-speak with disputed origins, usage: celebratory

FTW = For The Win – usage is normally when you’re about to achieve something e.g. “eating 15 banana frittters FTW”

SFW / NSFW = Safe For Work / Not Safe For Work – usage is normally preceding or following a link where it’s not immediately obvious where it goes – can be used on twitter when posting tiny urls – stops you opening an inappropriate link in front of whoever’s lurking over your monitor.

kthxbai = OK, Thanks, Bye – Lolcats use this language a lot, pop over to http://icanhascheezburger.com/  for detailed exploration. You will waste time, though.

15 thoughts on “W00t! new linguistics on the net FTW!

  1. I have found that with the advent of facebook and, more recently, twitter, my blog has suffered. Not that I was any kind of prolific blogger to begin with.
    As to new acronyms, well, I say why not. The 140 char limit, I think, is less to blame than peeps (there I go) using older style mobile phones. I spell things out more with “QWERTY” input.

  2. I thought that the consensus of opinion was that woot in fact was Leet-speak for Root – hackers/crackers gaining root (administrator) access to a linux system would say “root”, except they’d encode it in leet speak as “woot”. Is that not right, or have I been misinformed?

  3. I wouldn’t put too much faith in anything on urbandictionary. It serves as an example of why wiki type systems aren’t great for gathering all kinds of information. Someone has a theory of a word origin, they tell someone who tells someone else and at some point people believe that’s the origin even when the originator of the definition made it up. Someone adds it to urbandictionary as a definition and then a bunch of people argue over who’s theory is “most likely”. Real dictionaries need evidence for good reason.

    Anyway… Are you interested in jargon that has a purpose or neologisms that people repeat just for the fun of it?

    For jargon that has a purpose, the most interesting is the whole NSFW thing. With corporate IT policies famously getting peopel fired for inappropriate use of work computers, this code spread fast amongst bloggers as a way to designate links that contain material that “could get you sacked”, usually adult or gross or sometimes just containing a lot of swearing (if a video or audio clip). It’s sortof like a voulantary 18-certificate for bloggers.

    In the ‘just for fun’ category, you still see references to the “All Your Base” meme even though that dates back to 2001. When someone makes a dramatic status update on Facebook for example, if they have geeky friends, someone might comment “What happen?” References to pop culture are created all the time, I’ve seen people using “Simples” in comments as a reference to the Meerkat adverts.

    Everyone has heard of the lolcats phenomenon by now, but maybe they don’t realise that they are a special case of something called an ‘image macro’. Another popular image macro is the FAIL phenomenon. This spilled out into common language and peaked last year with everybody describing this or that as “a fail”. A particularly big or dramatic fail would be an “epic fail”. I believe the ‘epic’ part comes from the game World Of Warcraft where epic is one member of a classification of rare and powerful objects in the game – as a consequence everything that’s big/expensive/dramatic is described by players as epic. Combine that with the fail meme and you have the ‘epic fail’ that everyone was talking about last year.

    Note that both the All Your Base quotes and the image macro phenomena are people being deliberately ungrammatical for the fun of it. That’s what sets this language apart from text speak. In text speak the idea is to compress a message down to as few characters as possible – a more practical goal.

    • rhm, what an excellent comment, thanks for taking the time to add. You got my inferred risk of relying on urban dictionary! Yes, I’m interested in purposeful jargon as well as word origins in general, and your NSFW elaboration certainly gives me food for thought. On Lolcats, I rather love the fact that lolspeak rules (rulz), work just like traditional grammar – although in this case it’s the wrong spelling and contractions/substitutions that make for correct usage. I see now how lolcats are a subset of the “image macro”, thanks for drawing those parallels with the Fail/Epic Fail meme.

  4. The “All Your Base” warped grammar even pops up in completely non-geek serious situations such as this discussion of the current economic crisis http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVsYZo86S-k

    To those not in the know, it would have been either completely missed, or just accepted as some “bad grammar” by the guest, except we saw the slight smirk on his face as he said “All your decisions are belong to me”

  5. I think often it’s a community thing, you and your friends will have phrases and acronyms that work for you all because you’ve developed them together, or there’s a story behind them that’s personal to you all, or it’s from something you all read (holymoly speak, say).

    It would be really interesting to compare online speak between diff folk and see how it’s adapted to a particular group, including how much of it is unique to them (so for example, my best mate and I talk about ‘ag’ rather than aggro/aggrovation but that goes back to a character we met in a diy shop rather than any quasi offical shorthand!
    I have never got FTW – thanks v much for the explainer!

  6. I have been in on the revolution since I got my first spectrum. I think i must have sign up for every net working apps or on line storage thingy going. Unfortunately used a collection of different passwords and now cant access the sites, so they are just out there floating about. Now I keep them in a book.
    Just found twitter and Love it. Its a challenge trying to squeeze what I want to say in but then you can always double twit.

  7. Hi LJ,

    Not sure about your definition of “ftw”. “For teh win” and the opposite “for teh lose” are traditionally placed after a noun to denote an item or skill that is decisive in a gaming encounter. It’s often used in an ironic sense to point out some small factor that tips the scales – e.g. in a long, difficult raid, a group member might use a low level potion to heal himself at the right time to win the battle – “noob potions ftw!” Or, for example, you might be playing a shooter and run out of ammo at just the wrong time – “reload ftl”.

    Wiktionary’s definition is closest to the mark:

    “Of something which completes a process in a successful manner”

    Don’t bother with Urban Dictionary…

  8. Sometimes I find that a lot of the linguistics (netspeak) a bit odd, but then again, I’m not a gamer. Having said that, I do use abbreviations and acronyms now and then… and to some degree, text shorthand.

    I guess it all comes down to the context of what you are saying and who your audience is and I try to be succinct… however it is easier said than done!

  9. While I appreciate living languages, a prefer to spell things out. I prefer to be clear in communications, and acronyms tend to obfuscate.

    As for 140 characters, a little thinking improves conciseness. Simplify, simplify.

  10. Hi LJ,
    I saw you on breakfast tv today and was most interested in what you and the other lady were saying. I am very behind in acronyms and abbreviations-I use some when texting just because it is easier but I still use punctuation! I am on FB(there you go I used one) but do not like it much and mainly stay on there to nose at my friends. Sad but true. I do find it fascinating how language changes.
    I have been blogging since last year (and distinctly remember a time about three years ago when I first heard the word ‘blog’ and had to ask what it meant-oh dear!) and really like it. I do not think I will ever twitter though-I have not got time-and not sure I understand the point. I am interested to hear about the 140 character limit though-that gives it the qualities of a problem which might be fun. I don’t update my FB status but I do like to post regularly on the blog and love blogs that do the same. I have no new acronyms to tell you I don’t think but I did have to look up xoxo!

    • Hi Sarah, thanks so much for commenting on my blog, I’m off to have a look at your blog in return! Have a look at BBC Click’s website this weekend, the show is running a piece on Twitter and there’s also some stuff online about how to get into it.

  11. Hi LJ,

    Just found your blog after “following” you in the twitterverse. Hope you don’t mind, but I’ve linked to your blog from my own nascent fumbles in the blogosphere.

    I’ve been floating around various sites for a few years now, always with the same password, not very secure, but it makes things easy to remember, and one of the “problems” I experience IRL, is having to switch off from the net.

    Currently I’m producing a document for my workplace, that will be sent to all members of staff. The most significant feedback I have been getting is to do with the ‘voice’ the document speaks in. I’m so used to the less formal approach used when communicating online, it’s been difficult to find the right balance between a professional document and having something that is, at least in my opinion, readable and not too dry.

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