Thursday, June 24, 2010

lolcats: A new type of English?

I'm fascinated by the turns English takes, especially as the internet plays a bigger role in developments of language change. One change I've never quite understood, though, is the use of 'shortcuts' when texting or instant messaging someone. I don't understand how typing 'l8r' saves energy when it takes me longer to find and reach the appropriate number key than it would for me to type the 'ate' in the middle of the word. It also takes more energy for me to find the '^' key than it does for me to simply type 'up.' Since I don't see how shortcuts are actually shortcuts, I tend to think people use them to be "cool". I have obviously never been cool in the texting world, as I happily correctly punctuate and capitalize my sentences with words that are correctly spelled when I text.

My students introduced me to an online site that takes English computer lingo to the next level: lolcats. On the site, you can find examples of English like this:
We r adding favorite buttons 2 sum classic lolz, so u can favorite dem!
I find it hilarious that in the middle of these sentences, you see words like 'sum' and 'awt' interspersed with correctly spelled 'adding' and 'favorite' and 'classic.' Why do 'sum' and 'awt' and 'dem' but not 'klasik' and 'favrit' (or some other shortened/changed spelling)?

Banner on 'lolcats' homepage, which is
Even the website's name, 'i can has cheez burger', has such a discrepancy: Why not use 'haz' instead of 'has'?

During the summer session, I have a student who wants to work with the language used with lolcats, so I'm looking forward to seeing what she uncovers in her investigation. In the meantime, I'll be staring at the words on the website, wondering why anyone would take the time to develop such crazy spellings for English words when English spelling is crazy enough as it is.

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