Editorials and Opinions

It’s all about the wordplay

By Mara Sahleanu
Published: February 2010

I am in no place to knock creativity of any kind. I also tend to be stingy with my use of teenage phrases that go against the grammar rules dictated to me by formal education.

That being said, I sometimes allow myself a few casualties every now and then’€generally just catchphrases between friends, associated with some inside joke. The deviations I encounter daily on the interwebz, however, tend to serve one of three purposes: to make me chuckle, make me resentful, or confuse me entirely.

I’m no sheltered old person, but it’s fair to say that RitiN’ sertin things n S3rtin wayz kin b moar cryptic then anything els. N no 1 lykz a h4x0r hu cannot spell. To push me to resentfulness, though, is quite a task.

I have faith that our generation approaches daily speech with more inventiveness than our predecessors did; it’s the first time in a while that popular phrasing has been so heavy with meaning.

Take, for example, one of my favorites: If you were to replace a reaction of shock in conversation with “O RLY?, what looks like a casual misrepresentation of “oh really is actually laden with meaning.

It derives its humor from the single image that is brought to mind upon its usage, the photo of a surprised snow-white owl that went viral’€hugely popular, if you catch my drift’€on the World Wide Web some years ago. Whether or not the situation calls for a shocked bird representation, the reference is nonetheless successfully delivered through the use of the seemingly tacky abbreviation.

Similarly, the act of encasing nouns between an ampersand and a semicolon has had a surge of popularity in recent years. To the inexperienced eye, it looks like typos accidentally hacked up by a computer.

But looking further into the history of the trend, we see that the placement of the punctuation is a throwback to HTML coding, which was used on websites that required brackets and carats and otherwise useless keystrokes to depict images.

&heart; was the mother of the bastardizations used today. Naturally, we adolescents grew tired of the familiar and branched into clever derivatives of our own invention, replacing “heart with all kinds of situational nouns. Proud we should be, for we’ve managed to come up with a punctuational device that is both unique to our generation and reflects modern society’s technological advancements.

Although it’s easy to look down on our generation’s idea of wordplay, it deserves a little bit of respect. We obviously don’t have the credentials to call ourselves new-age Billy Shakespeares but, except in regard to syntax and rhyme scheme, we’re pretty much playing the same game.

Rearranging vowels and strategically capitalizing random letters in words has become somewhat of a trademark of our Internet scene’€and nothing beats hearing people attempt to incorporate online lingo into spoken conversation. (You can’t hide from the shame attributed to saying “lolz sincerely.)

Kids nowadays amuse themselves with changing the language they use the most frequently, and catering it to the whims of their friends and cohorts. Sure, even if, as a population of immature adults, we need to be amused at all times, we deserve merit for the motivation behind the creativity.

It’s a challenge of sorts, to bend language beyond the point of recognition. And why not have fun getting there?

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