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Thoughts on internet slang

Published on July 5, 2009 by in Internet

Literacy and linguistics are skills and like any skills that must be learned and practiced.  Increased incidents of “bad practice” are at the detriment of “good practice”. It is important to distinguish informal and formal language use.  The greater levels of acceptance of informality with society, is cause “spillage” of Internet idioms into spoken language.

You will often hear older generations complaining saying things like “that is an awful letter and he’s a bank manager!”  The simple fact is the letter writing like anything else is a skill, and one today in spite of email rarely practiced to any degree.  Personally I can remember that that time I receive or wrote a letter to my mother, if either of us want to communicate , we just pick up the phone, in spite of being in two different countries.

Internet slang arises for two primary causes; typing is slower that speech and the User Interface of portable devices is unsuitable for fast typing.  I essence I would suggest it is driven by a need rather prejudicial accusation of sloppiness.; “the IRC format encourages rapid response, “participants work quickly to secure their turn and message content becomes more important than surface polish.” (Merchant, 2005)

However other psychological aspects have a part to play, Merchant (Merchant, 2005)suggests that a since of community and identification come from the ability to use such language  ie “being  with the in crowd”. Androutsopoulos  takes this argument further suggestion that language is part of social identity (Androutsopoulos, 2006) and thus a implying that it is a require part of a “network” community..

In the general conversational environment, it is not the norm to speak with “high eloquence”, in fact doing so is likely to attract attention and perhaps a reputation for being eccentric.  Society has already formed a distinction between the formal and informal use of language.  The use of “internet slang” is a further reinforcement of this division. Unfortunately there is evidence that used as a substitute for speech, the distinction between typed speech and real speech blurs and as such idioms spill over into speech.

I would suggest that speech recognition for example could reduce the necessity and perhaps cause the extinction of such slang vocabularies.  Technology has already experienced such changes.  Ammeter radio enthusiasts will be all familiar with Q Codes.  Q codes where adopted as a standard in 1912 and enable the  codes such as CQ (“calling all stations”) to be used.   The necessity?  Once again user interface, the medium was Morse code.  Technology has advance and their use as well as the use of Morse code has significantly declined

Education seeks to provide the skills an experience required to maximize  our potentials.  There is a need to recognize there are multiple levels of linguistic appreciation as well as multiple perceptions.  Literature appreciation, which is arguable the elite academic discipline in respect to language use, would certainly not advocate the use of such “internet idioms”.  Practioners of such academic programs may and sometime do argue that the “sloppiness” of Internet style communications provides then with a lowered starting point in their students.

For my $0.02 I believe this to be a new communication style rather the death of linguistic appreciation.  The increases use of “internet slang” is driven by need and the insufficiencies of user interfaces rather than laziness.


Androutsopoulos, J. (2006) Introduction: Sociolinguistics and computer-mediated communication’, Wiley Interscience : Journal of Sociolinguistics, [Online]. (Accessed: 5-7-2008).Doi 10.1111/j.1467-9841.2006.00286.x

Merchant, G. (2005) Teenage Girls and Internet Chatrooms ‘, Sheffield Hallam University, [Online]. Available from: http://www.shef.ac.uk/content/1/c6/05/05/23/merchant.pdf (Accessed: 5-7-2009).Doi na



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