Have you ever shortened a word when communicating on the internet or through text for simplicity purposes? I’m sure you have as many of us would, especially when talking informally with friends. And even though we know we couldn’t use these same shorthand abbreviations (or grammar cheats as I call them) in formal writing, they have still become useful and heavily practiced in the right domains.
The domain we want to investigate is the internet (obviously) where informal chatter is essential to the birth of shorthand and the evolution of it. But, curiously enough, the idea of shorthand was predicted in the 1949 novel by George Orwell, 1984, far before the thought of the internet was even seeded.
As you have already noticed in the title, I abbreviated the word “Newspeak” the way I wanted to use it in my message. Knowing the word prior to experiencing the abbreviation generally helps the audience better understand what is being said, so that is why I included the formal word to follow. Now, don’t lose me yet, because you’ll be interested in knowing what Newspeak is, where it came from, and where it could take us.
George Orwell predicted in his novel a new language known as Newspeak:
“Newspeak’s grammar is arranged so that any word can serve as any part of speech, and there are three different groups of vocabulary words… In comparison with modern English, these words are fewer in number but more rigid in meaning. Newspeak leaves no room for nuance, or for degrees of meaning.”
This new type of language Orwell depicted for the future is identical to our habits of shorthand today, especially on the internet. As mentioned above, the language of Newspeak has different groups of vocabulary words:
“The B vocabulary consists entirely of compound words and often compresses words into smaller forms to achieve conceptual simplicity: the English phrase “Thought Police,” for instance, is compressed into “thinkpol”; “the Ministry of Love” becomes “miniluv.””
Look strikingly familiar? I hope so. Even the word “vocabulary” is often shortened to “vocab” for simplicity and generally accepted everywhere in all sorts of domains. So if we do it outside of the internet, what kind of words do we shorten for simplicity inside of the internet? Here are a few:
addy (address) nm, u (not much, you?)
buhbye (bye) shhh (quiet)
huh (what?) wub (love)
mmk (mmm & ok) lol (laughing out loud)
Maybe it is just me, but I think it is crazy that a writer predicted our habit for shorthand 67 years ago. Even crazier is that an entire language has been born on the internet curtailing this idea of Newspeak and simplifying modern English for informal communication. Orwell explains in his novel that Newspeak is used by the National Party to limit the range of thought the people can have and better prevent such vocabulary that could and would incite rebellious acts against the government. I do not want to get into politics in this blog, and so I would like to add that I do not believe we are on the verge of all becoming mindless sheep using internet acronyms to communicate. Lets just focus on the predictability of shorthand and the use it could have in the future…
Acronyms and shorthand are sometimes difficult to fully grasp like formal writing without knowing the pretence of the acronym or even the context of its use. For example, let us look at an AIM conversation between Sally and Jim Bob:
Sally: I am bored AF.
Jim Bob: Wyd?
Sally: chillaxin. u?
Jim Bob: Same. LM4a~##zzzz>
How much of this conversation do you understand? I am assuming most of it since we have all been exposed to internet lingo long enough to catch the meaning of each acronym. That last thing Jim Bob mentioned was something I did not know and have never used in a conversation before. I won’t ruin the surprise, so go ahead and click on the hyperlink above to see what he meant….
So you see there are endless possibilities for acronyms and shorthand on the internet. Many of them follow us everywhere we go becoming habits of thought. Laughing out Loud and Talk To You Later are two very common ones that we sometimes literally SAY because they have become so common use. That may be part of our linguistic future as Orwell predicted it to be. Not only may we be formulating acronyms on the internet but quite possibly integrating them into our speech for the simplicity and common thread of understanding we create with them.
Woah woah woah, I know a few of you just got goosebumps down your spine from the thought of speaking in acronyms. But don’t freight, this is what this blog exist for – to help us all understand internet grammar with open minds. I highly doubt Orwell’s prediction of Newspeak will manifest itself ever. Language is a growing and ever-changing adaptable tool, of course. But in order for an entire language to shift from traditional long hand usage to internet lingo and gibberish, it would have to penetrate the hundreds of layers English alone has in its grammatical basis and structure.
Take a deep breath and EMBRACE the use of acronyms. They do provide a great deal of simplicity in informal chatter and reveal licks of cleverness here and there. The world may be extremely rocky in its current state, but this is no 1984 novel, and English must remain malleable – use it to your advantage!