Eliot probably didn’t expect that voice to be discussing how to obtain the best selfie angle or how to do a lit twerk against the wall for the Insta feed. And he definitely wouldn’t have predicted that any of these terms would be added to the Oxford English Dictionary…
Nevertheless, Eliot may have been onto something. Language is forever changing based on social trends and so dictates the significance of the words we use to express ourselves. But this isn’t only on screen, as more recently internet slang has changed the way we communicate with one another in public and even professional settings.
Doing a number on you
One of the more notable ways that online language has developed- or regressed perhaps- is through spelling. Numbers, for instance, have been adopted to shorten the arduous task of typing a word in its entirety. How much time do we have to sing ‘happy bday 2 u’ to our friends anyway?
Funnily enough, this isn’t only an anglophone habit. Even Koreans are numericising their chuckles by the use of the number 5 (pronounced as ‘ha’). In Spanish, even saying a final goodbye needn’t involve any emotion whatsoever, and can be as quick as typing ‘Salu2 para 100pre’ (saludos para cienpre). Sounds gr8…right?
Cut it out!
Whether we’re really pressed for time or just lazy, we’re all guilty of adopting acronyms and eliminating letters to speed up and simplify our words. How many times have you read a text message that says ‘Wuu2’ and thought, ‘wow, they must have really been in a rush’? We are even more likely to say the letters OMG than exclaim its actual meaning, so popular has it become.
The ubiquity of LOL has also wiggled its way into audible chats; it’s almost impossible to eavesdrop on a millennial conversation without hearing someone say ‘I genuinely LOLed’. Nowadays its meaning has evolved, it can be used not only to express amusement but feelings of awkwardness, sarcasm or embarrassment.
An emoji says a thousand words
Of course, if you don’t have a way with words, the blessing of the emoji keyboard has you covered. Originally used in casual texting, emojis have weaseled their way into business and consumer marketing. With over 2,500 to choose from (so far), emoji appears to be the only language understood worldwide. Could it be the international language of the future?
…not quite yet. There are still of course some barriers. Naturally some cultures interpret emojis differently to others; while in the western world the waving hand emoji means a modest ‘hello’, in China it can signify a friendship break-up. Lucky for us, we now have the first EVER official emoji translator and decoder, Keith Broni. His transcreation consultations prove particularly useful in legal cases, where text messages involving emojis are often used as evidence. A jury’s misinterpretation could lead to unworthy sentencing, after all!
Whichever form of language you choose online, don’t get too comfortable with it just yet. By the time you’ve decided on one that suits you, it will have already been deemed outdated.
Gd luck! 🤷🏻♀️
By Gina Agnew, WIT Project Manager