Internet slang (
Internet shorthand, cyber-slang, netspeak, or
chatspeak) refers to a variety of slang languages used by different
people on the Internet. An example of
Internet slang is "LOL" meaning
"laugh out loud". It is difficult to provide a standardized definition
Internet slang due to the constant changes made to its nature.
However, it can be understood to be a type of slang that Internet
users have popularized, and in many cases, have coined. Such terms
often originate with the purpose of saving keystrokes or to compensate
for small character limits. Many people use the same abbreviations in
texting and instant messaging, and social networking websites.
Acronyms, keyboard symbols and abbreviations are common types of
Internet slang. New dialects of slang, such as leet or Lolspeak,
develop as ingroup internet memes rather than time savers.
1 Creation and evolution
2 In pop culture
3 Types of slang
4 Views on
5 Use beyond computer-mediated communication
Internet slang today
6 Around the world
7 See also
9 Further reading
10 External links
Creation and evolution
Internet slang originated in the early days of the
Internet with some
terms predating the Internet.
Internet slang is used in chat rooms,
social networking services, online games, video games and in the
online community. Since 1979, users of communications networks like
Usenet created their own shorthand.
In pop culture
In Japanese, the term moe has come into common use among slang users
to mean something extremely cute and appealing.
Aside from the more frequent abbreviations, acronyms, and emoticons,
Internet slang also uses archaic words or the lesser-known meanings of
mainstream terms. Regular words can also be altered into something
with a similar pronunciation but altogether different meaning, or
attributed new meanings altogether. Phonetic transcriptions of
foreign words, such as the transformation of "impossible" into
"impossibru" in Japanese and then [the transliteration of that] back
to [the character set used for] English, also occur.
In places where logographic languages are used, such as China, a
Internet slang exists, giving characters dual meanings, one
direct and one implied.
The primary motivation for using a slang unique to the
Internet is to
ease communication. However, while
Internet slang shortcuts save time
for the writer, they take two times as long for the reader to
understand, according to a study by the University of Tasmania. On
the other hand, similar to the use of slang in traditional
face-to-face speech or written language, slang on the
often a way of indicating group membership.
Internet slang provides a channel which facilitates and constrains our
ability to communicate in ways that are fundamentally different from
those found in other semiotic situations. Many of the expectations and
practices which we associate with spoken and written language are no
longer applicable. The
Internet itself is ideal for new slang to
emerge because of the richness of the medium and the availability of
Slang is also thus motivated for the “creation and
sustenance of online communities”. These communities, in turn,
play a role in solidarity or identification or an exclusive or
David Crystal distinguishes among five areas of the
slang is used- The Web itself, email, asynchronous chat (for example,
mailing lists), synchronous chat (for example,
Internet Relay Chat),
and virtual worlds. The electronic character of the channel has a
fundamental influence on the language of the medium. Options for
communication are constrained by the nature of the hardware needed in
order to gain
Internet access. Thus, productive linguistic capacity
(the type of information that can be sent) is determined by the
preassigned characters on a keyboard, and receptive linguistic
capacity (the type of information that can be seen) is determined by
the size and configuration of the screen. Additionally, both sender
and receiver are constrained linguistically by the properties of the
internet software, computer hardware, and networking hardware linking
them. Electronic discourse refers to writing that is "very often reads
as if it were being spoken – that is, as if the sender were writing
Types of slang
Internet slang does not constitute a homogeneous language variety.
Rather, it differs according to the user and type of Internet
situation. However, within the language of
Internet slang, there
is still an element of prescriptivism, as seen in style guides, for
example Wired Style, which are specifically aimed at usage on the
Internet. Even so, few users consciously heed these prescriptive
recommendations on CMC, but rather adapt their styles based on what
they encounter online. Although it is difficult to produce a clear
Internet slang, the following types of slang may be
observed. This list is not exhaustive.
Included within this group are abbreviations and acronyms. An
abbreviation is a shortening of a word, for example "CU" or "CYA" for
"see you (see ya)". An acronym, on the other hand, is a subset of
abbreviations and are formed from the initial components of a word.
Examples of common acronyms include "LOL" for "laugh out loud" and
"BTW" for "by the way". There are also combinations of both, like
"CUL8R" for "see you later".
Punctuation, capitalizations, and other symbols
Such features are commonly used for emphasis. Periods or exclamation
marks may be used repeatedly for emphasis, such as "........" or
"!!!!!!!!!!". Question marks and exclamation marks are often used
together in strings such as "?!?!?!?!" when one is angry while asking
a question. Grammatical punctuation rules are also relaxed on the
Internet. "E-mail" may simply be expressed as "email", and apostrophes
can be dropped so that "John's book" becomes "johns book". Examples of
capitalizations include "STOP IT", which can convey a stronger emotion
of annoyance as opposed to "stop it". Bold, underline and italics are
also used to indicate stress.
Onomatopoeic and/or stylized spellings
Onomatopoeic spellings have also become popularized on the Internet.
One well-known example is "hahaha" to indicate laughter. Onomatopoeic
spellings are very language specific. For instance, in Spanish,
laughter will be spelled as "jajaja" instead because J it's pronounced
like H. In Thai it's 55555 because 5 in Thai is said Ha. In Korean, it
Keyboard-generated emoticons and smileys
Emoticons are generally found in web forums, instant messengers, and
online games. They are culture-specific and certain emoticons are only
found in some languages but not in others. For example, the Japanese
equivalent of emoticons, kaomoji (literally "face marks"), focus on
the eyes instead of the mouth as in Western emoticons. They are also
meant to be read right-side up, as in ^_^ as opposed to sideways, :3.
More recently than face emoticons, other emoticon symbols such as
<3 (which is a sideways heart) have emerged. Compared to emoticons
used in Western cultures such as the United States, kaomoji play a
very distinct social role in online discourse.
These are found in chat engines such as
Internet Relay Chat or online
games, where personal identities may be concealed. As such, questions
such as "A/S/L?" which stands for "age, sex, location?" are commonly
Leetspeak, or 1337, is an alternative alphabet for the English
language which uses various combinations of ASCII characters to
replace Latinate letters. For example, may be expressed as
"//1<1p3[)14". It originated from computer hacking, but its use
has been extended to online gaming as well.
Leet is far less common
now than in the first decades of the internet.
Novel syntactic features
Unusual syntactic structures such as "I Can Has Cheezburger?" and "You
are doing me a frighten" have been encouraged and spread by highly
successful memes. Pluralization of "the internets" is another example,
which has become common since it was used by
George W. Bush
George W. Bush during a
Flaming refers to the use of rude or profane language in interactions
Internet users. It can be caused by any subject of
polarizing nature. For example, there is an ongoing debate among users
of Windows and classic Mac OS/macOS as to which is "superior".
Historically, the act of flaming has been described as an intrinsic
quality of emails due to an absence of visual and auditory cues in
computer-mediated communication (CMC).
Olbanian language is a Russian cant language developed by padonki of
Runet. The language entered mainstream culture and it has been
suggested that Olbanian should be taught in schools. Similar
systems exist for other languages with non-Roman scripts such as
Hebrew and Arabic.
There have been ongoing debates about how the use of slang on the
Internet influences language usage outside of technology. Even though
the direct causal relationship between the
Internet and language has
yet to be proven by any scientific research,
Internet slang has
invited split views on its influence on the standard of language use
in non-computer-mediated communications.
Prescriptivists tend to have the widespread belief that the Internet
has a negative influence on the future of language, and that it would
lead to a degradation of standard. Some would even attribute any
declination of standard formal English to the increase in usage of
electronic communication. It has also been suggested that the
linguistic differences between Standard English and CMC can have
implications for literacy education. This is illustrated by the
widely reported example of a school essay submitted by a Scottish
teenager, which contained many abbreviations and acronyms likened to
SMS language. There was great condemnation of this style by the mass
media as well as educationists, who expressed that this showed
diminishing literacy or linguistic abilities.
On the other hand, descriptivists have counter-argued that the
Internet allows better expressions of a language. Rather than
established linguistic conventions, linguistic choices sometimes
reflect personal taste. It has also been suggested that as opposed
to intentionally flouting language conventions,
Internet slang is a
result of a lack of motivation to monitor speech online. Hale and
Scanlon describe language in Emails as being derived from "writing the
way people talk", and that there is no need to insist on 'Standard'
English. English users, in particular, have an extensive tradition
of etiquette guides, instead of traditional prescriptive treatises,
that offer pointers on linguistic appropriateness. Using and
Internet slang also adds onto the cultural currency of a
language. It is important to the speakers of the language due to
the foundation it provides for identifying within a group, and also
for defining a person’s individual linguistic and communicative
competence. The result is a specialized subculture based on its
use of slang.
In scholarly research, attention has, for example, been drawn to the
effect of the use of
Internet slang in ethnography, and more
importantly to how conversational relationships online change
structurally because slang is used.
In German, there is already considerable controversy regarding the use
of anglicisms outside of CMC. This situation is even more
problematic within CMC, since the jargon of the medium is dominated by
English terms. An extreme example of an anti-anglicisms
perspective can be observed from the chatroom rules of a Christian
site, which bans all anglicisms ("Das Verwenden von Anglizismen
ist strengstens untersagt!" [Using anglicisms is strictly
prohibited!]), and also translates even fundamental terms into German
In April 2014, Gawker's editor-in-chief Max Read instituted new
writing style guidelines banning internet slang for his writing
Use beyond computer-mediated communication
Internet slang has crossed from being mediated by the computer into
other non-physical domains. Here, these domains are taken to refer
to any domain of interaction where interlocutors need not be
geographically proximate to one another, and where the
Internet is not
Internet slang is now prevalent in telephony, mainly
through short messages (SMS) communication.
interjections, especially, have been popularized in this medium,
perhaps due to the limited character space for writing messages on
mobile phones. Another possible reason for this spread is the
convenience of transferring the existing mappings between expression
and meaning into a similar space of interaction.
At the same time,
Internet slang has also taken a place as part of
everyday offline language, among those with digital access. The
nature and content of online conversation is brought forward to direct
offline communication through the telephone and direct talking, as
well as through written language, such as in writing notes or letters.
In the case of interjections, such as numerically based and
Internet slang, are not pronounced as they are written
physically or replaced by any actual action. Rather, they become
lexicalized and spoken like non-slang words in a “stage direction”
like fashion, where the actual action is not carried out but
substituted with a verbal signal. The notions of flaming and trolling
have also extended outside the computer, and are used in the same
circumstances of deliberate or unintentional implicatures.
The expansion of
Internet slang has been furthered through
codification and the promotion of digital literacy. The subsequently
existing and growing popularity of such references among those online
as well as offline has thus advanced
Internet slang literacy and
globalized it. Awareness and proficiency in manipulating Internet
slang in both online and offline communication indicates digital
literacy and teaching materials have even been developed to further
this knowledge. A South Korean publisher, for example, has
published a textbook that details the meaning and context of use for
Internet slang instances and is targeted at young children who
will soon be using the Internet. Similarly,
Internet slang has
been recommended as language teaching material in second language
classrooms in order to raise communicative competence by imparting
some of the cultural value attached to a language that is available
only in slang.
Meanwhile, well-known dictionaries such as the OED and
Merriam-Webster have been updated with a significant and growing body
of slang jargon. Besides the all too common examples, lesser known
slang and slang with a non-English etymology have also found a place
in standardized linguistic references. Along with these instances,
literature in user-contributed dictionaries such as Urban Dictionary
has also been added on to. Codification seems to be qualified through
frequency of use, and novel creations are often not accepted by other
users of slang.
Internet slang today
Internet slang began as a means of "opposition" to mainstream
language, its popularity with today's globalized digitally literate
population has shifted it into a part of everyday language, where it
also leaves a profound impact.
Frequently used slang also have become conventionalised into memetic
"unit[s] of cultural information". These memes in turn are further
spread through their use on the Internet, prominently through
Internet as an "information superhighway" is also
catalysed through slang. The evolution of slang has also created a
'slang union' as part of a unique, specialised subculture. Such
impacts are, however, limited and requires further discussion
especially from the non-English world. This is because
is prevalent in languages more actively used on the Internet, like
English, which is the Internet’s lingua franca.
Around the world
Chinese seal carving work. The character is a combination of three
characters, which is done by Chinese netizen. This is a satire of
Internet censorship. See Grass Mud Horse.
Internet has helped people from all over the world to become
connected to one another, enabling "global" relationships to be
formed. As such, it is important for the various types of slang
used online to be recognizable for everyone. It is also important to
do so because of how other languages are quickly catching up with
English on the Internet, following the increase in
Internet usage in
countries predominantly non-English speaking. In fact, as of May 31,
2011, only approximately 27% of the online population is made up of
Different cultures tend to have different motivations behind their
choice of slang, on top of the difference in language used. For
example, in China, because of the tough
Internet regulations imposed,
users tend to use certain slang to talk about issues deemed as
sensitive to the government. These include using symbols to separate
the characters of a word to avoid detection from manual or automated
text pattern scanning and consequential censorship. An outstanding
example is the use of the term river crab to denote censorship. River
crab (hexie) is pronounced the same as "harmony"—the official term
used to justify political discipline and censorship. As such Chinese
netizens reappropriate the official terms in a sarcastic way.
Abbreviations are popular across different cultures, including
countries like Japan, China, France, Portugal, etc., and are used
according to the particular language the
Internet users speak.
Significantly, this same style of slang creation is also found in
non-alphabetical languages as, for example, a form of "e gao" or
alternative political discourse.
The difference in language often results in miscommunication, as seen
in an onomatopoeic example, "555", which sounds like "crying" in
Chinese, and "laughing" in Thai. A similar example is between the
English "haha" and the Spanish "jaja", where both are onomatopoeic
expressions of laughter, but the difference in language also meant a
different consonant for the same sound to be produced. For more
examples of how other languages express "laughing out loud", see also:
In terms of culture, in Chinese, the numerically based onomatopoeia
"770880" (simplified Chinese: 亲亲你抱抱你; traditional Chinese:
親親你抱抱你; pinyin: qīn qīn nǐ bào bào nǐ), which means
to 'kiss and hug you', is used. This is comparable to "XOXO",
Internet users use. In French, "pkoi" is used in the place
of pourquoi, which means why. This is an example of a combination of
onomatopoeia and shortening of the original word for convenience when
In conclusion, every different country has their own language
background and cultural differences and hence, they tend to have their
own rules and motivations for their own
Internet slang. However, at
present, there is still a lack of studies done by researchers on some
differences between the countries.
On the whole, the popular use of
Internet slang has resulted in a
unique online and offline community as well as a couple sub-categories
of "special internet slang which is different from other slang spread
on the whole internet… similar to jargon … usually decided by the
sharing community". It has also led to virtual communities marked
by the specific slang they use and led to a more homogenized yet
diverse online culture.
Cyberculture: social culture contained and created within cyberspace
English language spelling reform
Languages used on the Internet
List of acronyms
List of Chinese
Padonkaffsky jargon, a description of Russian
SMS language, a description on language as used in SMSes. Relevant to
Internet slang due to transfer of slang into
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