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What does it all really mean?

Been there, done that

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With the advent of texting and instant messaging there has emerged a huge set of online abbreviations to make messaging faster. For those of us who aren’t immersed in messaging lingo, getting a message with a bizarre term or shorthand can be annoying and confusing. 

First off, how did this come about? Back in the early days of texting, two major factors caused abbreviations to become commonplace in messaging. The first was the v9 keyboard, found on flip phones. Typing was quite slow and cumbersome compared with a keyboard. Typing a letter would take between one and four keystrokes, so people found all kinds of ways to cut out extra letters and keystrokes to save time. The character limit was another factor and cost per text. 

Before unlimited plans, each text cost upwards of 20 cents and had a hard limit of 140 characters for one message. Packing the most into 140 characters was ideal and further popularized text abbreviations. Slowly as the limitations surrounding texting fell away and online instant messaging became popular with Skype and Facebook Messenger the abbreviations persisted and even became more popular. 

Several types of abbreviations are used in texting, and the most popular are acronyms, using the first letter of each word in an expression or phrase. This includes terms like “diy” (do it yourself), “ttyl” (talk to you later), “bff” (best friends forever), “btw” (by the way), “lol” (laugh out loud), “rn” (right now), “brb” (be right back), “jk” (just kidding), “irl” (in real life), "idk" (I don't know) and “asap” (as soon as possible). These are fairly easy to figure out if you know the saying. Numbers used as homophones are also easy to decipher; for example, the number “2” in lieu of “to” or “too.” Another example is “gr8” meaning “great.” 

To figure out the meaning, think about how you would pronounce a word. 
The most common type of word shortening is done by removing the vowels from longer words; for example, tomorrow becomes “tmrrw.” A word’s consonants are generally sufficient to identify the word. The vast majority of texting abbreviations fall into one of these categories and can often be figured out or quickly googled in a pinch. Cheat sheets would be helpful, but they would likely become outdated rather quickly. 

Another set of terms used in messaging or texting aren’t really abbreviations in the sense that they are shortened words or phrases. They would be better classified as slang terms. Many have risen out of common feelings, situations or viral content that are quite ubiquitous among the younger generations. Slang terms are much more fascinating because they create an interesting window into youth culture. Many of the terms are similar in meaning for instance “squad” and “fam,” both refer to the sender’s close circle of friends. Saying something is “gucci,” “lit,” “fire,” “unreal,” “snatched,” “goat,” “dank,” or “turnt” all mean good in some form or another. Saying something is “boujee” means ridiculous/over the top in a rich or wealthy way; for example, truffle oil is so boujee. 

A very popular term is “woke” which means having a high level of awareness about social or environmental issues and causes. The terms “left on read,” “ghost,” and “skurt” all refer to ignoring or avoiding someone intentionally. If someone says something to you “low-key,” “on the DL,” or simply “DL” that means that what they are telling you isn’t common knowledge or a secret and is being told to you in confidence. If someone is “salty” about something, they are bitter or unhappy about it.

All of this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the world of terms used in messaging and texting. The terminology is always evolving, but I have covered a good portion of the most common terms and abbreviations. Now that you know what they mean, give them a try.


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