Home > CULTURE, DEFINITION, TECHNOLOGY > DEFINITION: Textlish

DEFINITION: Textlish

Textlish

 is the use of text based acronyms such as LOL/”Laugh out Loud” and OMG/”Oh My God”! in spoken conversation.  This trend is becoming heard more every day as the Digital Decade comes of age.  To wit:

“I am so tired of your…”

“STFU”!

“Of course I could be wrong but IMHO.”

Textlish is different from the increasing use of Ebonics/African American and Spanglish/Latino in that it is not verbally originated.

Again Textlish is not rooted in the verbal strategies of an ethnic group as in the roots of Ebonics and Spanglish.

Finally Textlish has not made its way into what little remains of literature.

(I have never read a text novel).

Again this in contrast to Ebonics in literature.  My first encounter with written Ebonics came in 8th. Grade when I read my copy of Mom’s NATIVE SON by Richard Wright, 1940.  My subsequent reading of THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MALCOLM X, 1965,  by Malcolm X. as told to Alex Haley illuminated the way in which conversational dialect could shed light upon a culture.

Likewise, Piri Thomas’ DOWN THESE MEAN STREETS, 1967, featured the Spanglish of Spanish Harlem as the narrator grappled with identity issues.

2004’s the James Brooks’ directed SPANGLISH finally brought the dialect to Hollywood decades after the tongue had been spoken for generations by  a variety of Latino immigrants and their children.

Textlish is not Ebonics or Spanglish.

Textlish is not an occupational acronym such as SNAFU/”Situation Normal, All F*%&)% Up,” as often employed by those in the Armed Forces nor is it a case where letters approximate words as in IOU/”I Owe You”.

Textlish first came to my ears in 2009 when the HTC Dream Droid made smartphone technology affordable.  Although the HTC Dream’s manual QWERTY keyboard was cumbersome the affordability of the HTC Dream as opposed to the Apple iPhone made the Dream ubiquitous. Google/Android and Apple/iPhone went to war creating virtual keyboards and a variety of apps that made conversation superfluous.

Verbal articulation was a casualty of digitalization.  After the “hassle” of conferring on the phone became needless profanity formed the first phrases in Textlish.

More importantly the loss of privacy engendered by verbal conversations could now be avoided.  While it might be fine to tell your friends to “Shut the F#*% Up” many social situations still hadn’t warmed to talking trash. Thumbs gained new dexterity to text the expletives that couldn’t be spoken in polite company.

By 2009 “STFU” was heard by my far from virgin bartender years.    One of the biggest changes during the past 5 years in the adult beverage business  was a bar full of folks intently tapping their smartphones, emerging from their digital cocoons occasionally to say “OMG” as if the root of all discourse was in their smartphones.  Indeed bar and club music was now louder than it had been in the 1990’s as texting replaced talking and Textlish replaced English.

Finally in 2011 LMFAO‘s anthemic “Party Rock” branded Textlish as Red Foo’s and Sky Blu’s tech house duo AND the new virtual tongue of the time.

Now Textlish is part of our lingua franca as a generation that has never known a world without the Internet matures.  Textlish is a creation of bandwidth rather than a bandwidth claiming a chunk of our minds as in Douglas Copeland’s prescient 1995 novel MICROSERFS.

Textlish is deeply rooted in the billions of text messages sent globally but as yet not codified.  There is no King James Bible, Dead Sea Scrolls or Rosetta Stone to clarify and define meaning.

References to Latin etymology are irrelevant and literally meaningless.

Indeed Textlish epitomizes digital democracy in a way that Webster’ Dictionary just can’t.  Textlish is emotional shorthand for when you don’t want to bother with entire words.  Textlish assumes that the Speakers are attuned enough to acronyms that further elucidation is needless and even vulgar.

Does Textlish promote or encourage sharing?

Sometimes.  The transmitter and the receiver need to be on the same wavelength or Textlish can rapidly devolve to a series of assumptions that bear little resemblance to thought.

(And you know what they say about “assume”).

As traditional literacy’s practitioners age and pass our tongue will be shaped by those who have never know an analog universe.  The use of Textlish is a harbinger of the faith that folks have in shared values.

Indeed as words such as “abdominals”, “carbohydrates” and “applications” are heard more in truncated form than as intellectual property it seems a virtual certainty that Textlish is only beginning to claim our lexicon.

Tending bar I have learned to make nice with folks who introduce friends as their BFFs/”Best Friend Forever”.

Would this tactic work in an environment where hospitality isn’t the guiding star?

“IDK”

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  1. April 15, 2014 at 11:18 am

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    • May 13, 2014 at 11:56 pm

      Hi Grady, thank you for your thoughts. I’ll be posting soon. Cheers, Steve

      Like

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