It's true

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Today's xkcd:

At least, the teenagers that I know are scornful of txt-speak abbreviations, and see them as something that clueless adults do.


  1. Stell said,

    July 18, 2012 @ 2:23 pm

    This is exactly the opposite of my experience.

  2. Steve Parkes said,

    July 18, 2012 @ 2:36 pm

    That's because youngsters use predictive text, while us old 'uns can't understand how to make it work!

  3. lee said,

    July 18, 2012 @ 3:02 pm

    "because we're gorwn-ups now, and it's our turn to decide what that means"

  4. Ben Zimmer said,

    July 18, 2012 @ 3:09 pm

    For more on senatorial txt-speak and similarly strange political communication, check out my recent Boston Globe column, "Whassup, Citizens!" (and this radio interview).

  5. Joe R. said,

    July 18, 2012 @ 3:25 pm

    Cher seems a wonderful example of this:

    I wonder how much whatever you're using to tweet interacts with this: using the iphone touch keyboard might make people more likely to use texting shortcuts than the keyboard on a laptop.

  6. Delia Turner said,

    July 18, 2012 @ 3:45 pm

    Sixth graders (and their parents, often enough), use text-speak extensively in their e-mail communications with their English teacher. I suspect it's because they write most of their e-mail on their phones.

  7. Carol Saller said,

    July 18, 2012 @ 4:57 pm

    This made me smile. The first time I attempted to text one of my 20-somethings, I used "U" as a shortcut, and instead of answering my question, he wrote back "Ha-ha! I can't believe you wrote 'U'!"

  8. Rebecca said,

    July 18, 2012 @ 7:45 pm

    As one of those twenty-something, the abbreviations I and many of my peers use substitute a few letters to stand for a whole phrase: tbh for to be honest, hth for hope that helps, mte for my thoughts exactly, etc. I hardly see anyone using numbers anymore.

  9. Aaron Toivo said,

    July 19, 2012 @ 1:26 am

    Self-awareness is a key virtue in the new terrain of political communication, and a healthy dose of it can ensure that aging politicians don’t appear ridiculous donning youthful digital fashions.

    Amen! But the phenomenon is broader than just language use. In particular, I vividly remember the day the Rickroll died: it was the day then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi made one of her own, demonstrating a complete absence of clue. The surreal horror can be viewed here.

  10. Martin said,

    July 19, 2012 @ 8:14 am

    A key word in the comic, and a key to what senators (and others) get wrong, is 'post': Teenagers, and twenty-and-a-bit-year-olds like myself, will happily use txt-speak in texts and emails to each other. For public posts, we would never consider anything but correct and often careful language.

    Facebook multilogues, logically, fall between the two. Being not entirely private and not entirely public, they tend (in my experience) to use only a small number of txt abbreviations and will have most, but not all, of the standard punctuation.

  11. Ron Stack said,

    July 20, 2012 @ 6:53 am

    The worst offender I know is my 80 year old mother, who texts like a parody of a teenager. My actual teenager texts in full sentences. In fairness, my mother uses a feature phone that doesn't have a full keyboard while my son has an iPhone.

    c u l8r Mom!

  12. Martha said,

    July 20, 2012 @ 9:58 am

    Like Rebecca and her friends, the only time my (twentysomething) friends and I shorten thing is in abbreviations. I can only think of one friend who uses textspeak in Facebook posts or texts. I've never used it. It's like a whole other language that I never bothered learning. I would have to actually take the time to think about the other way of spelling something in order to use it, if I wanted to.

    The only person who uses it in text messages with me is my sixtysomething aunt. She is new to texting and does not have a qwerty keyboard in her phone. I get the impression that it takes her so long to tap-tap-tap out each letter that it saves her copious time.

    Going along with Ron's comment, this makes me wonder, though, if another reason younger people are using textspeak less is because they're more likely to use "fancy" phones with keyboards, and therefore it's not really that much faster or easier to shorten things. The majority of over-50 people I know keyboards. (I don't, however, know how most of them text though.)

  13. tpr said,

    July 22, 2012 @ 2:54 am

    At least on the internet, I would guess Ron Paul support is strongest amongst young men in the age range that roughly coincides with the one car insurance premiums are highest for. Something to do with being young enough to know everything.

  14. sean said,

    July 22, 2012 @ 7:15 am

    To me there's one major thing that consistently turns a txt abbreviation into fatally uncool "txt-speak", and that's for it to involve homophones. 4 = for, U = you, l8 = late, 2 = to, m = am, n = in, c = see, r = are, and y = why, are all, like, super lame and I wouldn't be caught dead using them.

    It's not just the shortness. These are all okay: f = fuck, v = very, p = pretty. (As in: "that's a p good idea".)

    Initialisms like tbh, wtf, lmao, imo, and afaik are all fine.

    Just dropping letters from words is a mixed bag. hrs = hours is fine. lk = look is uncool. I don't know a general rule.

    (I'm 25, male, american)

  15. Martha said,

    July 22, 2012 @ 11:59 pm

    Oh man, if someone said "that's a p good idea" to me, I'd have no idea what they were talking about. Or I'd think it was a typo. No one in my circle of friends does that, at least not to me.

  16. Dan Velleman said,

    November 7, 2012 @ 12:30 pm

    Seems like you'd *expect* this sort of thing to vary widely between social circles, even within the same demographic.

    Unlike talking — or making and reading forum posts — texting is something you only do with family or close friends. You rarely get to eavesdrop on other peoples text message conversations. You don't see text messages depicted much on TV or in books. My guess would be that even really prolific texters are only exposed to a few dozen people's texting styles. Seems reasonable, then, that there'd be less stylistic levelling and more local stylistic idiosyncracies.

    (And sure enough, on the rare occasion that I get a text from a mere acquaintance — even if it's someone of my age and gender and so on — I'm often sort of puzzled by the style of it. "Wait, HE texts like THAT? Weird. I didn't know anyone did that.")

  17. Jeremy Hoffman said,

    November 9, 2012 @ 10:49 pm

    As a 20-something in Silicon Valley, my algorithm for what txt-speak is okay to use is pretty simple:

    1. Look at how teenagers on Yahoo! Answers write.
    2. Don't do that.

    Besides "sounding" like a teenager, the other thing to avoid is "sounding" like an old person. I think the other commenters are correct that the feature phone/smartphone divide of the past five years has shaped this one. Pretty fascinating!

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