Monday, February 1, 2010

Alphabetism and Acronymy

Remember the days of chatrooms, before Facebook made it easy to find people to flirt with who know your youthgroup carpool/papier mache class teacher and thus can't be rapists? Yeah chatroom days sucked. The letters ASL still creep me out a bit.

ASL is of course an acronym that stands for "Age/Sex/Location." It was the shortest of shorthand for two strangers to figure out the legality, proximity and possible offensiveness to Rome that a sexual encounter with one another might have. Or it just might help them find someone to weep about puppy abuse to over long late night chats with the occasional webcam shot of a nip slip. I'm so glad we live in the future. (It became the future in the last couple months, mostly due to incessant nostalgia caused by decade lists + iPad gossip.)

Anyway, acronymy has always been around (what's up AIDS, AOL, CBS! Except AIDS is a fancy kind where you say it like it's spelled, like NATO), but the internet has generated acronyms for much more bizarre things than transnational corporations, diseases and military projects.

In fact, most of them are bodily responses, like "rolling on the ground laughing my fat ass off," and they are often exaggerations. How often do you roll on the ground laughing your fat ass off? Wow! That often? You stoner!

I think lots of internet-generated acronyms function to "mark" speakers as insiders of a certain community. Often they generate to form unnecessary, yet highly specific and exaggerated phrases, and their main merit is that being able to decode them shows that you know what's what. You're on the pulse of what 13-year-olds are saying, and as marketers know, that's where the money is.

Of course, they do have a tone-indication function. If you said something totally funny in a chatroom and i answered, "that was funny," you might think i was being sarcastic and dry, like usual. But if I responded with a gentle "lol," you'd get that in person I'd be chuckling. This is obvious, huh?

Benefits of acronymy:
-Faster typing
-Faster texting
-Faster reading
-In-group marking
-Tone inflection

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