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Internet Lingo sample essay

Internet lingo or Internet slang (also known as ‘netspeak’) refers to a set of words, phrases, and acronyms used primarily in casual communication over the Internet. Its elements were created and made popular by Internet users themselves. Characteristic of netspeak are acronyms for phrases, like “LOL” (laughing out loud), “ROFL” (rolling on the floor laughing), and “OMG” (oh my god. Netspeak has expanded to include full words as well—words like “blog”, “flame”, “online”, and “haxor” are only a few of the many words that the Internet has given birth to. A special set of Internet lingo, called “emoticons”, or “emotion icons”, also exists. These are the familiar “smileys” like “:)” or “=)”, wherein the colon or the equals sign stand for the eyes, and the parenthesis symbol the mouth.

The exact date of the first usage of Internet slang is somewhat difficult to determine, but its beginnings can be traced back to the 1980s, during the days of Usenet (Anderson 1996). They were perhaps meant to ease the load on users to type so much so they could say more in a smaller amount of time and effort, and was also perhaps a means to signify their statuses as Internet users. From there, it spread all across to what the Internet is today—from message boards, to chatrooms, to instant messaging—it has become a ubiquitous language in the World Wide Web, understood by any Internet user.

One of the original purposes of Internet lingo (which it still serves well even today) it to save the user a few keystrokes. The reason why a large part of Netspeak consists of cryptic acronyms is exactly this. For instance, an Internet user in the middle of a chat, needs to leave abruptly, but is not disrespectful as to leave his friends without so much as saying a word.

He would like to say that he will talk to them some other time, but “talk to you later” is such a long phrase that may take even longer to type if said user is not very good at typing. Instead, he will type “ttyl”, which stands for the original message in his mind, and saves himself a few more seconds. His friends, able to decipher his message, acknowledge, perhaps with a “k” (“okay”) or “cu” (“see you”). Most of Netspeak functions this way, and there are a great many acronyms which stand for equally numerous messages, all serving to save the user some time and effort.

Emoticons were invented to enable Net users to express emotions and feelings over the Internet. Since the users most likely do not see each other while communicating online, emoticons are important when words are no longer enough to express a feeling. The regular smiling face, “:)”, is the most popular, and usually means that the other person is pleased or feels happy. It is difficult to list all of the existing emoticons as there are simply too many, at least one for almost every expression, and even for non-expressions.

They, too, can also serve to save some time and a few keystrokes. For example, instead of saying “I am sad,” the user can simply use “:(“. Or, he can use them at the end of a sentence to more effectively convey what he feels: “I am mad at you! >:(“ However, the latter purpose seems to have weakened nowadays—if someone sees the sentence in the previous example, he would not believe that the person is actually angry or displeased; rather, he would think that the person at the other end is using the smiley to achieve a comical effect.

Like in any group or subculture, a means to indicate that one understands or one belongs is necessary in order for one to be truly part of that group. This is another purpose of Internet slang: it lets people identify themselves as part of the Internet culture.

Like a secret handshake, knowledge of this language is more or less required for one to be a true “Netizen”—an Internet denizen. In fact, one can observe that some groups in the Internet will even go as far as mocking those who has little knowledge about the words or phrases, or if he misuses them. In instances like these, the misinformed user will be referred to as a “n00b”, a derogatory term derived from the word “newbie”, which means a newcomer (Wikipedia 2007).

With the rising availability, affordability, and popularity of computers and Internet access, Netspeak has found itself a wider user base than ever before. Indeed, this language has become so popular that it has begun to creep into people’s offline lives—popular acronyms like “LOL” and “WTF” (both of which can be typed in lowercase, as well as most other Internet acronyms), as well as many of the words can be found in mobile text messages, in television and movies, and even in the spoken language. However, teachers and other academic personnel and proponents are not too keen on this new language.

Many people seem to regard this spread of Netspeak as nothing but harmful and degrading to intelligence, especially those of students. Jodi Schenck (Arditti ¶;3), a high school teacher at the Rothberg Comprehensive High School in Israeli, recounts her students using Netspeak in academic writing: using the symbol “4” instead of “for”, using the letter “u” instead of spelling out “you”, and acronyms like “LOL”. It is also difficult, according to Schenck, to prevent the students from doing this (Arditti ¶;3).

To many teachers, like Schenck, Netspeak is corrupting the English language and is detrimental to a student’s intelligence. The problem is that it is so popular, and sometimes people might not be aware of the fact that they are already using them outside of the Internet, or that they are not acceptable in writing. Internet slang, much like regular slang, are only meant for use during casual conversations (or in the case of Netspeak, chatrooms and informal emails and messages).

However, some people will disagree. As it resembles a new language on its own, linguists will give it due treatment, and defend it. Professor David Crystal, a linguist, in fact thinks that it is not a corruption but an enhancement to the English language (NPR 2007).

He believes that it adds more variety and a wider choice for speakers and non-speakers alike of English by extending the range, expressiveness, and richness of the language. This is yet another purpose of Internet lingo. It may be necessary, however, to limit its use to casual conversations only. Students should still be required to differentiate between formal and informal speech, and when either should be used. Since Netspeak is considered a form of informal speech, it should stay away from formal and academic papers.

The adoption of phrases and terms used in the Internet as a form of language is a fairly recent move. Due to its many purposes—as a time-saver, as a way to express feelings and emotions where it was otherwise impossible, as a symbol of belonging, and as an enrichment to the language—Internet slang, Netspeak, or Internet lingo deserves its place in the English language.

It serves its purposes well, and are actually quite useful to know, especially now when almost everyone is using the Internet and this form of speech. It may still be confusing to some people, and may be misused at some places, but through proper education, the ubiquity of Internet slang should not pose a threat to corrupt the English language.

Works Cited:

Anderson, Andrew. “Usenet History.” The Network Administrator’s Guide.1996. 27 June 2007. .

Arditti, Avi. “When Netspeak Enters Formal Writing, Teachers are Anything but LOL.” 2007. 25 June 2007. .

Ulaby, Neda. “OMG: IM Slang is Invading Everyday English.” National Public Radio. 2006. 25 June 2007.

Wikipedia. “List of Internet Slang Phrases.” 2007. 27 June 2007. .

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