Language and the Internet

(Axel Boer) #1


More comple xe xamples includeQuarkXPressandaRMadillo On-
line. Some of the new names cause difficulty, in that long-standing
orthographic conventions are contravened: for example, sentences
can begin with small letters, as ineBay is interestedoriMac is the
answer, a problem that faces anyone who wants to start a sentence
with a lower-case username or program command.
Spelling practice is also distinctive. In English, US spelling is
more common than British, partly for historical reasons (the ori-
gins of the Internet), and partly for reasonsof economy, most US
spellings being a character shorter than British ones (colorvscolour,
fetusvsfoetus, etc.). New spelling conventions have emerged, such
as the replacement of plural -sby -zto refer to pirated versions of
software, as inwarez,tunez,gamez,serialz,pornz,downloadz, and
filez. Non-standard spelling, heavily penalized in traditional writ-
ing (at least, since the eighteenth century), is used without sanction
in conversational settings. Spelling errors in an e-mail would not be
assumed to be an indication of lack of education (though they may
be) but purely a function of typing inaccuracy. Opinions vary (see
chapter 4). Chatgroups and virtual worlds also make a great deal of
use of non-standard spellings which reflect pronunciation, such as
yep,yup,yay,nope,noooo, foryesandno, or such forms askayand
sokay[‘It’s OK’]. Emotional expressions of horror, shock, and the
like make use of varying numbers of vowels and consonants, de-
pending on the ferocity of the emotion:aaaiiieee,yayyyyyyy.Some
deviant spellings have become so widely used as to be virtually stan-
dard in this variety, such asphreak,phreaker,phreakingforfreak
(etc.). Some are still restricted to certain groups of users, such as
the -y- spelling (frombyte) introduced into certain expressions for
bit blocks of different sizes:taysteortydbit(2 bits),nybble(4 bits),
playte(16 bits), anddynner(32 bits). The dollar sign sometimes
replacesS, if some sort of dig is being made about costs, as in
MicroS/oft, and a£sign can replaceL,asinAO£. Teenage users, in
particular, have introduced several deviant spellings, such askool
[cool] andfone[phone], and the replacement of a lower-caseo
by a zero, as ind00dz[dudes] andl0zers[losers], or percentage
sign, as inc%l. Among this group of users, thekis often used as

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