50 Shades of Texting

The language of instant messaging has become an entity of its own. Texting has been a useful and widespread tool since the introduction of cellphones. Through time, the way we communicate using this means has evolved in a way that has divided linguists with regard to the use of grammar and spelling related to texting. At least at the beginning, some attributed this phenomenon to the need to save space in our messages. However, nowadays character constraints are essentially nonexistent when texting – at least in newer phone models. So, if character saving is not the main reason we are prone to changing and shortening words, then the cause is that as technology has evolved, we have become more impatient, we need information right away, and we get mad when someone doesn’t reply immediately after sending them a message. We certainly live in a fast society, where everything needs to happen right now.

In the old days, people wrote long e-mails for example, using complete words and knowing that, after sending the e-mail, a few days could go by before you actually got an answer. This was because not everyone had access to a computer, or to the Internet for that matter. Now, things are a little different, we can no longer wait to get a response, no matter the time of day.

We are all familiar with acronyms such as “ASAP,” “LOL,” “BFF,” “EOB” or “EOD,” etc.; their use is so widespread that they are being used in other languages. When it comes to translating text messages, translators may find it difficult to use acronyms in the target language, this is an instance when even localization and transcreation may fail, simply because acronyms used in the English language are so embedded in current culture (within and outside the U.S.), that we would be OK just leaving them in English, and attempting to create new ones in our target language may be a big fail. This is also partly due to the fact that there seem to be more acronyms in English than in any other language.

Of course, there other acronyms which seem farfetched and probably created “on the spot” during a conversation, others belong to close groups of friends or organizations, so they could mean all sorts of things to an outside reader. These are the most difficult to translate or localize due to their narrowed use. Let’s take a look at the most unusual ones: DHU: Dinosaur hugs (used to show support), FICCL: Frankly, I couldn’t care less, ROFLCOPTER: Rolling on floor laughing and spinning around (taking LOL a little bit too far), TTYAFN: Talk to you awhile from now… just to name a few.

So this is what’s happening to our language, it’s constantly evolving, whether for better or worse, and we have to keep up with it.