I Can Explain… Internet Vernacular

As much as some of us would like for language to be bound between the covers of the latest edition of our dictionary, it is a far more dynamic cultural entity. It is continually adapting and changing to fit the technology and culture of the time. Because of this, the internet and cell phones have spawned their own sort of language. For good or bad, it has begun to enter the vernacular of young and old a like and while we may not want to embrace it all too quickly, it’s important to at the very least try and understand it. So before you start ROTFL at the thought and I TTYL… I can explain!

Like all languages, internet vernacular does have certain rules. Let’s start with the simplest. Any word that sounds like a letter or number is represented by that letter or number. This includes, of course B (be), C (see), K (okay), R (are), U (you), Y (why), 1 (won), 2 (to/too), 4 (for), and 8 (ate). Thus you could see a sentence like “R U OK?” or “I C U R doing OK” or “Y?”

Along the same lines, if a symbol or number sounds like a part of a word, then it can be substituted for that part. The number 4, sounding like for, could thus be substituted in words like B4 (before) or 4ever (forever). The number eight can be used in the same way in words like GR8 (great), L8 (late), H8 (hate), and W8 (wait). The application of this rule in compound words including a number is more obvious including every1 (everyone). The symbol @ can be used in both of these ways. It can be used separately as its own word @ (at) or as part of a word like L@R (later).

Next, in internet vernacular abbreviations and acronyms are used often. Most abbreviations can be sounded out or their meaning can be assumed like plz or pls (please), abt (about), and def (definitely). However, if no one tells you the meaning of the acronyms, they are much harder to decipher. The more common acronyms include:

That’s funny and/or has made me laugh:

  • Lol (Laugh out loud)
  • Lmao (Laugh my a** off)
  • Rotfl (Rolling on the floor laughing)

Good bye:

  • Brb (Be right back)
  • Ttyl (Talk to you later)
  • C ya (See you)


  • Btw (By the way)
  • ILY (I love you)
  • JK (Just kidding)
  • OMG (Oh my god)

Of course, smiling faces or “smileys” and symbols are often used to convey emotions including:

  • Happiness as a colon and left facing bracket 🙂
  • Extreme happiness as an equal sign and a capital “D” representing a big smile =D
  • Sadness as a colon and right facing bracket 😦
  • Crying as a colon, apostrophe and right facing bracket 😥
  • Suggestiveness as a semi-colon and left facing bracket representing a winking face 😉
  • Silliness as a colon and capital P representing a person sticking their tongue out 😛
  • Love as a triangle left and number three representing a heart ❤

And the list goes on and on. So if you’re grandson ever says “l.o.l.” after you say something funny and you want to know what the heck he’s trying to convey… well… I can explain!

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