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Internet Users Develop Chat Room Lingo - 2002-06-28

Americans often communicate in a sort of shorthand. We even use some "acronyms", or abbreviations, more often than the words they represent. We'll say, "do that 'a-s-a-p'" or "asap" meaning, "as soon as possible." "FYI" means "for your information." Your "ETA" is your estimated time of arrival. Ted Landphair reports a trendy kind of shorthand is exploding on the computer Internet.

Perhaps the idea evolved from newspaper personal advertisements, where it became "hip" to use catchy abbreviations. They shortened the message, so the ads cost less. For instance, a person might advertise that he was a "DJM", a "divorced Jewish man", "ISO" meaning "in search of," and N/DWF" a non-drinking white female, for a "LTR," that's a long-term relationship.

Now, in many e-mails on the computer, there's a whole new kind of "lingo", as such language is called. Recreational users understand it perfectly, but it may mystify others.

To go with a story about computer-talk, PC World magazine and the magazine's website,, produced a long glossary of these terms. PC World senior editor Aoefe McEvoy says the lingo is especially popular among users of what's called "instant messaging". Short blocks of text that are typed and shared, back and forth, among friends. "Some people who like to save time, like to be funny, use these abbreviations, not because they're lazy but because they've got eight computer conversations going on at once," she explained. "Some of them, you might guess what they mean. For example, a lot of people think 'LOL' is 'lots of love,' which it is not."

No, 'LOL' in computer lingo stands for 'laughed out loud'. Fifteen-year-old Rose Bellandi, a high-school student in Syracuse, New York, likes to use this computer jargon in her online conversations. She says the slang comes naturally when you've grown up in the cyber age.

Bellandi: "I use, like, 'TLTL', which is 'too little, too late.' There's stuff like 'BRB', 'I'll be right back." An N and M is 'never mind.' It's just easier than writing the whole thing out.'"
Landphair: "How about 'J/K'?"
Bellandi: "Just kidding."
Landphair: "Just kidding!" You knew that one right off the top of your head!"
Bellandi: "Yeah, I use it a lot. I use 'VEG,' which is 'very evil grin.' And 'IMAO.' That's 'in my arrogant opinion!'
Landphair: "'In my arrogant opinion'?"
Bellandi: "There's also 'IMHO,' which is 'in my humble opinion.'"
Landphair: "And your friends would understand immediately what you're talking about?"
Bellandi: "Yeah, they would."

Rose Belandi says some young people conduct almost entire computer conversations in acronyms, as if they were sharing a secret code. Here's an example.

Don't worry, we'll translate for you:

Male: "RE-HI"
Translator: "That means, 'hello, again.'

Female: "HUA"
Translator: "Heads up, Ace."

Translator:"Oh, no, not again."

Female: "Fraid so. While you were AFK . . . "
Translator: "away from the keyboard . . ."

Female: ". . . an FOAF . . ."
Translator: "a friend of a friend"

Female: ". . . told me your BDC . . .
Translator:. . . "big, dumb company"

Female:. . . "FAB in your OS"
Translator:"found a bug in your operating system"

Male: "What? Are you EWI?"
Translator: "e-mailing while intoxicated"

Female: "No! TM"
Translator: "Trust me."

Female: "fys-big-t-babn"
Translator:"Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy night."

Male: "Yeah, well TAH, I'm ROFL"
Translator: "Thanks a heap. I'm rolling on the floor laughing."

So it can go, back and forth, and there are hundreds more examples.

Female voice: "BBN"
Male Voice: That means "Bye-bye now."

Female voice: "BRB"
Male Voice: Be right back.

Female voice: "BTW"
Male Voice: By the way.

Female voice: "HAK"
Male Voice: Hugs and kisses.

Female voice: "ILY"
Male Voice: I love you.

Female voice: "RMMM"
Male Voice: Read my mail, man.

Female voice:"Snert!"
Male Voice:Snotty-nosed, egotistical, rotten teenager.

Female voice: "TLGO"
Male Voice: The list goes on.

It does indeed. If you think all this jargon is hard to follow, consider this: really adept computer users have an even shorter shorthand! They use just a couple of strokes on the keyboard to graphically express feelings or create clever images.

The idea started with the little smiley face that first became popular in the 1970s.

These symbols are called "emoticons". They are meant to add a bit of emotion to the sometimes-sterile world of computer talk. One emoticon, for example, consists of three left parentheses, followed by a long gap, then three right parentheses. This little graphic represents a hug.

Here are other emoticons. Tilting the page to the right helps in figuring out some of them:

:-$ Put your money where your mouth is
:-C Real unhappy
:-b Tongue stuck out
:-! Foot in mouth
(:^( Broken nose
(-_-) Secret smile
:- Sad
:-Q Confusion

Aoefe McEvoy at PC World magazine says some computer users find these emoticon symbols cute. "Some people think they're useful," she said. "Some people think they're annoying, because emoticons are pretty obscure until you know what they mean."

As with any kind of slang, the computer craze involving acronyms and emoticons may be a passing phase. Just as people in the 1930s said "toodle-oo" for good-bye, and "later" meant farewell in the 1990s, cyber friends say good-bye this way:

Male voice:"HAGO"
Landphair:"Have a good one"
Female voice:"BBN"
Landphair:"Bye-bye now!"