Net slang: The language of the future?

My upcoming SF novel contains both human and alien languages. Inventing a believable alien vocabulary is a huge challenge. But inferring futuristic English is no easy task, either.

I operated on the assumption that leetspeak, chat acronyms and gaming memes would work their way into mainstream vernacular by 2062, as Generations X, Y and Z age into senior citizens. So, my characters use many of these words and phrases, even if they are news reporters, doctors or military officers.

But my beta-readers tend to have one of two basic reactions:

1) “Its uber awesum u haz stuff off teh internets!”

2) “How in the world did you make up so many slang words?”

Which reveals who spends all their time gaming and reading 4chan, and who doesn’t.

Readers with reaction #2 are surprised to discover that there are very few human slang words I invented for the story. They are:

– “l’up” (look up, as to “l’up” some information on the net)
– fresh/stale (for good/bad)

The rest are words I lifted straight from chats and MMOGs. Here are several examples that appear in the pages of “Stellarnet Rebel”:

– cosplay (costume play, dressing up as a fictional character)
– epic (incredible, wonderful, immense)
– fail (messed up; if very bad then “epic fail”)
– full of win (awesome)
– Imma (I’m gonna)
– k tnx bai (OK, thanks, bye)
– k or kk (for OK)
– lag (slow response time, such as when playing an online game)
– lo (hello)
– looking for group (or LFG; “seeking a group to adventure with”)
– nom (act of eating, or the item eaten – “Imma nab sum noms”)
– noob (person who is new to something; a mash up of “new” and “boob” pretty much sums up this word)
– owned (defeated, bested)
– prolly (probably)
– scope (check out)
– shipper (often seen in fanfic and discussion boards, refers to fans who are jonesing for two characters or two people to be in a relationship)
– smart mob (real-life assembly mobilized by technology)
– smexy (smart and sexy)
– squee (the noise a happy little girl makes – and trust me, they really do; my 7yo squees a lot)
– squishy (in gaming, someone who dies easily, such as a wizard or healer)
– sup (short for wassup, or “What’s up?”)
– tank (strong warrior with high armor class, tough)
– uber (from the German for “super”)
– ur (your, you’re)

So, what do you think? Are these chat, computer and gamer terms around to stay for awhile, or will they go the way of “rad,” “far out” and “the cat’s pajamas”?


  1. Oh, good, now I can understand half of my net feeds : )

    I think some slang will stay while others have their day and get lost in the ether. Language is like that, which makes it fun to play with in futuristic-type stories : )

  2. Am I the only one with an intense dislike of internet slang that is three characters or lower?

    1. I like it. When ur typing with ur thumbs or a PS3 controller, or multitasking on the computer, the fewer characters the better. 🙂

  3. I wish I’d had this list before I got on to the internet. It took me forever to figure some of these out. Even quite recently I read an online comment – “I’m gonna ship the hell out of those two” – that I only just figured out. It’s like learning a whole new language sometimes.

    1. I think it’s very much like another language. It ticks me off when self-appointed grammar police troll chat boards and virtual worlds, accusing people of being illiterate. I’ve actually had people tell me, “It’s YOU’RE not UR, you idiot teenager!” And I get to reply with, “I am a 40 year-old former editor with a degree in psychology, and I am fully cognizant of both literary and Associated Press style, as well as qualified to inform you that U R anal retentive.”

      I’m not illiterate, I’m bilingual! 😀

  4. I love seeing everything in a list like that! I think I’m pretty up-to-date on my 133t but i still learned a few things. Are they here to stay? Who knows. But contractions stuck around so I see no reason why this latest round of verbal shortcuts would disappear.

  5. I think it’s best to try to come up with your own completely original slang, when necessary. That way you never have to worry about it sounding dated. The writers of my favorite movie, HEATHERS, said that’s why they wrote some of the dialog as they did. “What’s your damage?” “It’ll be VERY.” So even thought that film was made in the late 80’s, it still stands up, because no one ever talked like that anyway.

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