back to article IM represents 'new linguistic renaissance'

Those among you who believe the use of instant messaging slang and shorthand among teens has doomed the English language to inevitable destruction should take heart from this report in New Scientist, which claims that au contraire, IM represents an "an expansive new linguistic renaissance". That's according to Derek Denis and …


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  1. Martin

    Mathematically challenged

    Arithmetic is probably not their strong point if they think that 2.4% is infinitesimally small. Consumer price inflation is about that rate, and I wouldn't call that infinitesimal or even particularly insignificant.

    If 1 in 40 (ish) of the words you use falls into a certain category, that of abbreviations, that is going to be noticeable.


  2. Anonymous Coward

    Let me be the first to say..


    English got pwned.



    I'll g37 my C047

  3. Luke Leigh

    American Speech?

    Not really sure the report would be relevant....the American Language is pretty much a bastardisation of English offence intended of course :-)

  4. Paul

    "youngest users"

    "The dreaded "u", meanwhile, was shunned in favour of a full-fat "you" in 90 per cent of cases, and the researchers reckon use of such abbreviations is "confined mostly to the youngest users of IM"."

    And, I have noticed, the oldest... Well middle aged. Myself and my friends (in our mid to late 20's) tend to use more formal written English in emails, texts and IM, but find that our parents use "text speak" allot more. We use it only ironically, and for the odd abbreviation where it carries an emotion much more strongly that the correct written form.

    For example LOL carries the spontaneity of laughter much better than "Laugh out Loud" dose and the feeling much better than "That’s very funny".

  5. Ian Mills

    and what is.........


  6. Adam Christie-Grant


    Im sorry but they are very wrong about LOL - Everyone I know uses it... and the pronounce it as a word in its own right while not typing...

  7. Victor Meldrew

    @ Luke

    Far from it. Modern British English is a bastardisation of American.

    In the 18th Century our languages were the same. We British would have called the pavement 'The Sidewalk', the storage on a carriage was always 'The Trunk'...and so on.

    It is British English that has changed. American English stayed the same.


  8. Albert Lederer


    I suppose they've never read

  9. Dave


    Paul, your definiteley onto something with the older people using more abbreviations. I get a lot more "r u goin "'s from the older crowd. I wonder if it's because they tend to have older phones without predictive texting and the dictionaries.

    My outgoing messages tend to be correctly spelteded, but terse. Maybe because I don't know how to switch the correction features off.

    Texts I get from the younger crowd have "u r"'s, but also a lot of missspellted words. I know they come from modern phones, but it looks like they've read the manual and are using a combination of "three letters to a key" and predictive texting, possibly depending on whether they actually know how to spell a word, or whether it's too long or has a txt synonym eg (Awake / Cycle)

  10. Matt

    Comments on comments

    @Adam Christie-Grant You need to get out more and meet real people :-)

    @Victor I don't think you've got that quite right. American English started as a copy of English, probably influenced by the less well educated we sent there. However they were also influenced by the mix of other settlers (I imagine the American "Go figure" comes from the French "figurez vous", for example). But, yes I agree it basically got stuck in a time warp while English has moved on.

    On topic: I thought that text speak was basically for teenage girls, after all real men don't write, do they?

  11. Graham Dawson Silver badge

    @Victor + Luke

    Actually you're both wrong. American English is a dialect that branched off from "English" in the mid 19th century and retains much of that character, whilst British English continued along an evolutionary path heavily influenced by its colonial heritage (doo lally, tiffin, thug, for example, replacing "slightly mad", tea and footpad). Communication between the two dialects has been strong, so they share words with each other, *but* it's likely in about 500 years they'll be as incomprehensible to each other as Scots English and English are today.

  12. Pondlife


    I can has lol?

  13. ImaGnuber

    L'il Tykes -> Future

    "the researchers reckon use of such abbreviations is "confined mostly to the youngest users of IM"

    Well if 'children are the future' as we're so often told then the future looks to be filled with abbreviations and text-speak.

    Renaissance? Simple change isn't a renaissance.

  14. dodge
    Paris Hilton

    So what's wrong with "he he"?

    LOL is for losers. The smart people use onomatopoeia:

    he he or hee hee for something laugh-worthy

    heh for an amused interjection

    tee hee to a witty aside

    ah ha ha ha for dry retort to lame joke

    hyuck hyuck when laughing at someone you dislike's misfortune

    bwaaa ha ha for belly laugh or heavy mocking

    fnar fnar for use with innuendos and similar

    ha ha ha bonk for laughing you head off.

    That is all. Carry on. Paris because she's not seen a lot of public action lately.

  15. RW

    Eric Partridge, Usage and Abusage, p. 65

    Teen IM-language (also grandparents') is probably best categorized as a "cant", though teens, grannies, and grampses don't quite qualify as "the underworld" that Partridge associates with the use of cant.

    Not a slang, not a jargon, not an argot.

    The reference is to the 1970 Penguin edition.

  16. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: So what's wrong with "he he"?

    I approve of the old school, although I am not averse to the occasional ZOMG.


  17. Kurt Guntheroth

    Queen's English is a bastardization

    Else you'd all be talking like Shakespeare (don't you wish). Beowulf was written in english too kinda, but it is virtually uncomprehensible now. Guess what, language evolves. It is a tool fit for purpose that changes as its use changes. Only an idiot would claim that their dialect has an inherently superior position.

    Street dialects and IM-speak are the future of english; regularization of verbs, new vocabulary, respellings. Abbreviations are more temporary; the best ones stick. It's a Good Thing.

    Now, the decay in speech clarity, *that's* something worth whining about...

    Who's got my coat?

  18. Simon Hamp
    Thumb Up


    yes it all started with pooh and tigger

  19. Chris C

    I question their selection

    I seriously question their selection of "subjects". I would go so far as to say they started with their conclusion and worked backwards. Everyone I have seen using IM uses the abominable abbreviations such as "u", "r", "c", "1", "2", "4", "ne1", "2nite", "b4", "ur", "wut", "omg", "idk", "ppl"", "k" (instead of "ok"), "rofl", "roflmao", and a whole list of others that I don't even know (and don't care to know) like "rolfcopter". Sarah showed an example of that with "ZOMG" (what the hell does that mean?). That doesn't even get into the misspelling of words or the dreaded "prolly" which pops up on this site far too often.

    As we've commented before, the fact that these youths are using this "style" to communicate with each other is bad enough. But some of them also use it in school papers and online learning (school/university) forums and message boards, and many of them use it when communicating (or attempting to communicate) with others.

    I'm sorry, but I can never consider it a good thing when you lose the ability to effectively communicate with others.

  20. Neil

    It was said best on the Limerick Database...

    A preoccupied vegan named Hugh

    Picked up the wrong sandwich to chew.

    He took a big bite

    Before spitting, in fright,

    "OMG, WTF, BBQ!"

  21. anarchic-teapot

    @Chris C

    > I'm sorry, but I can never consider it a good thing when you lose the ability to effectively communicate with others.

    You're implicitly assuming everybody that uses this shorthand (and no, I don't) loses the ability to communicate with everybody outside the same set, which is daft. For example, children don't talk to their parents the same way they talk to their friends, or their teachers, and this has been going on for donkey's. Ever since Granny was a boy and Jesus wuz a childer.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Sorry but 'english is my third language'

    IM represents an "an expansive new linguistic renaissance"?

    Yes it is expansive (ofcourse) for users that are educated in the 'traditional' use of language. As a result many these IM 'words' will be included in dictionaries and thus in an accumulative way add to 'the language'.

    For many users however the IM language will be used and socially developed in isolation of 'traditional' language. Users of IM who are poorly educated and ignorant of commonly used 'traditional' language will not themselves become some kind of linquistic renaissance men or women. Just because the language expands as a whole does not mean that the vocabulary of all IM users will become greater.

    If you are not playing at both sides of the fence you will not personally benefit from the 'linguistic renaissance'. More likely if your world is impregnated with IM you may instead very well experience a personal linguistic 'dark age'...

  23. Jose Ramirez

    O M G

    yoof1: And he was like 'IM is interactive discourse among friends that is conducive to informal language, but at the same time, it is a written interface which tends to be more formal than speech'

    yoof1: and I was like ????

    yoof2: stfu???

    yoof1: srsly

  24. John PM Chappell


    Kurt: You seem to be under the misapprehension that 'Standard English' is 'Queen's English' as well as ignorant of etymology. Shakespeare's language was progressive in the extreme, at the time it was written and until recently English monarchs could barely speak any form of English.

    Ian Mills: Talk to you later.

    Abbreviations are all well and good so long as they actually save time and retain clarity and meaning but some of the more irritating ones actually take longer to enter on a standard phone keypad as well as obscuring the meaning. When text messages (where most of the more recent ones originate) were quite severely size limited, cost more per message and phones could only handle a small number of stored messages at any one time, shortening as far as possible without loss of meaning made sense. Now, what really is the point? On IM clients I can't really see that there was ever any point, aside from those expressing emotional responses, since in an interactive environment that matters.

  25. CTG

    Abbreviations aren't new

    My grandpa was fond of abbreviations - at the end of a meal he would invariably say either FUTTBT (full up to the back teeth) or FTBP (full to bursting point). He was born in 1879, died in 1976 at the age of 96.

    BTW can we have a new icon for "Sarah Bee is a goddess" ;-)

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Ian Mills

    and what is.........


    "Talk To You Later"

    Try to keep up at the back!



  27. James Condron

    Like... y'know.. Whatever

    Seriously, when was this compiled? 1987? Or did the New Scientist guys forget to do the research and base it on Ferris Fucking Bueller?

    "While linguistically-slack young 'uns are, for example, more likely to say "He was like, 'What's up?'" than "He said, 'What's up?'" "

    Yeah, thats exaaaaactly how people talk. Genius. Pure Genius.

  28. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "show off what they can do with language"

    More accurately : how much they can mangle it.

    In school, I was taught that a "dead" language was not spoken any more and thus, did not change, whereas a "living" language was used and changed over the course of time.

    At that time, I was brought to think that having a living language is quite a good thing, adaptability and all that.

    Unfortunately, along the way I learned one crucial fact about how a living language changes : it's because of all the mouth-breathers who can't be arsed to spell their own language correctly, and thus impose their repeated mistakes until said mistake gets its own place in the hallowed pages of a dictionary and becomes "part" of the language.

    That irks me to no end.

  29. Chris Cheale

    get on a bus

    ... and you'll hear wonderful conversations like:

    "and he was like..."

    "yeah, and she was like, what?"

    "yeah, whatever"

    So tha's, like, y'know, how peeps talk like, innit?

    Give me LOL any day of the week, it's a word in it's own right now (like w00t); you can even pluralise it, "lolz!".

  30. Alex

    How about pwnd?

    Vocal use of 'owned' in the gaming context in regular conversation is punishable by three options:

    1. A Counterstrike match with the Queens English enforced over mic.

    2. 100 lines of "Victory and the past possession of an object are not the same thing"

    3. Death

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