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The Social Speak Evolution

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Moving on from text speak

By the late 1990s, owning a mobile phone was fast becoming the norm. Character limits for text messages on pay-as-you-go phones resulted in a new universal vocabulary of abbreviations, acronyms and slang. This vocabulary, often branded as ‘text speak’, helped speed up real-time typed conversation. Text Speak was not exclusive to SMS messaging and was used on additional internet-based communication platforms including email, instant messaging and, subsequently, social media.

In 2011, popular abbreviations including ‘omg’, ‘lol’ and ‘fyi’ were added to the Oxford English Dictionary; technology was playing an increasingly important part in our everyday language.

And it still is.

However, many features of text speak now seem a little outdated. Several acronyms and abbreviations have become ingrained in our language – for example ‘lol’ and ‘omg’ are still commonplace. Others, including ‘brb’ (be right back) and ‘m8’ (mate) have faded out of use.

Top 10 forms of text speak which are now redundant

Txt – Text
Gr8 – Great
M8 – Mate
BRB – Be right back
ROFL – Rolling on the floor laughing
BBZ – Babes
L8RZ – Laters
GTG – Got to go
Enuf – Enough
TTYL – Talk to you later

We’ve moved on from text speak, yet technology and social media are still influencing our day-to-day language. Language used on the internet is constantly evolving, and every so often it’s entering our spoken communication.

The influence of social media and tech in our language

Social media and technology have made it easier than ever to contribute to our evolving vocabulary. ‘Google’ is now a verb universally understood – say that you’re going to google something and no one will bat an eyelid. Say the same thing 20 years ago and you’d get some very strange looks.
Many coinages originating from social media have become mainstream and our daily language has been influenced by re-appropriations of words, as social media and technology rapidly evolve. For example, ‘catfish’ is no longer just a type of fish but also someone using a false identity online.

Neologisms

Originating from social media and technology, new words, coinages, acronyms and abbreviations are evident in day-to-day communication.

Instagrammable – Derives from the popular photo-sharing social platform, Instagram. If something is instagrammable, it’s picturesque and would make a good photograph.
Meme – Can be an image, video or piece of text which is spread rapidly by internet users – often as mimicry. Typically, it’s an image with a witty caption overlaid.
ICYMI – In case you missed it. Typically used in clickbait headlines.
Photobomb – An unintended subject in a camera’s field of view as a picture is taken, spoiling the picture.
Selfie – A photo taken of yourself, by you. Selfie became the 2013 Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year and the earliest use of the word has been traced to an Australian internet forum.
Lol – Laugh out loud. Lol is thought to be around 26 years old and was first used in internet chatrooms.
(On) fleek – When something looks perfect.
Bae – Before anyone else (and similar nickname to babe).
Bloggersphere – Blogs, bloggers and readers considered collectively as a distinct online network.
Fomo – (The) fear of missing out.
Vlog – Video blog. Originated from YouTube.
App – A programme/piece of software/application downloaded by a user to a mobile or tablet.
TFW – That ‘feel’ when
TL;DR – Too long didn’t read

Re-appropriations

Often implicit in our language are re-appropriations of existing words. Social media giant Facebook has been the foundation for many re-appropriations of words, including friend, like and follow. This subtle change in our language reveals how social media plays a big part in popular culture.

Swipe right – Derived from Tinder; a term used to describe your acceptance of something.
Swipe left – Also derived from Tinder; a term used to swiftly reject something.
Friend – Someone you’re connected to on Facebook
Unfriend – Someone who you were connected to on Facebook, but you removed the connection.
Troll – Someone who starts arguments or upsets people on internet.
Google – Verb for searching for something on the internet.
Catfish – Someone who pretends to be someone they’re not, using social media to create false identities, typically to pursue online romances.
Follow – To follow someone’s online profile on social media (Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn etc.)
Like – To click ‘like’ on a social media post
Wall – Part of someone’s Facebook profile
Status – Updates on Facebook

Hashtags in popular culture

Originally exclusive to Twitter, clickable hashtags used to categorise tweets are now also frequently used on Instagram and Facebook. In the early days of Twitter, hashtags were primarily functional. But now, they’re often used excessively to label or comment on a tweet. This language habit has even reached spoken communication, again often to add irony or to summarise preceding speech. Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake mock over-the-top hashtag use in this video.

Hashtags in spoken communication have reached sitcoms such as The Big Bang Theory and Fox’s New Girl.

And in 2012, a baby was even named Hashtag Jameson.

When brands take it too far

Language is a powerful tool and when brands load their social marketing with buzzwords, hashtags and emojis they often distance themselves from their audience rather than engage with them. This tone of voice is typically used to target ‘millennials’ (people reaching young adulthood around the year 2000). ASOS, Dominos and McDonalds are among many of the brands who use language overtly influenced by social media

For brands, there’s a very fine line between engaging with millennials and alienating them. For example, when House of Fraser used ‘on-trend’ social media language and emojis in their Valentine’s #Emojinal campaign it came across as off-brand and had many users thinking that the Twitter account had been hacked. Others, including The O2 arena and Cosmopolitan, may have crossed the line by using neologisms such as ‘on fleek’ and ‘bae’ in attempt to engage with their audience.

Social media has become a platform for new language coinages and as these terms snowball on social, they can become ingrained in our day-to-day language. Or, as is often the case, new language features become mainstream and are therefore no longer seen as fashionable. With technology, digital and social media constantly evolving, new language can very quickly become old news. The acronyms and terms mentioned in this article might be in frequent use now but in a couple of years or even months they can just as quickly fall out of use, as the next popular language feature takes the limelight. For or against the use of social speak in everyday language? Let us know on the JJ Twitter page. Feel like testing your knowledge? Take our social media acronyms quiz and share your score.

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