Online chats not always letter-perfect

Messages: If you're new to e-mail, you'd better learn that shorthand counts.

October 04, 1999|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,Sun Staff; Cox News Service

Dear Gerald,

Thanks for your recent message. I understand you have just learned to use e-mail. Congratulations! Don't be embarrassed; you're not the last person (or father-in-law) in the world to e-mail. My mother hasn't learned. She likes to hear my voice over the phone and actually writes me letters with paragraphs and punctuation. Nutty gal.

You'll probably now venture into America Online chat rooms and find yourself talking to bright, witty human beings in faraway exotic places such as Louisiana and Cincinnati. You will double over with pleasure with each online communication. You will jump for joy when you finally see your first complete sentence. And when a room member finally uses "its" and "they're" properly, you'll kick yourself for not going online years ago.

AOL is a wonderful place to discuss mutual interests ranging from art, politics and authors to snowboarding, Pokemon cards and "Poolside Bikini Moms." But Gerald, I must warn you about chat room lingo because it can be sneaky; and I don't want to see you disappointed, misled or jailed.

Let's start with a few simple abbreviations:

BRB: Be right back. Person has left computer to put child to sleep or to slip into a leopard-skin thong.

LOL: Laughing out loud. Ninety-five percent of what's written in chat rooms is considered hilarious by room members named TIGGER or PREDATOR. So, tell a joke:

Q: What did the AOL guy say to the woman at the bar?

A: What are you wearing?

LOL.

LMAO: Laughing my a-- off. An upgrade. As in, "You are an Internet addict when ... your husband tells you that he has a beard for two months." LMAO.

Newbie: Person new to cyberspace. (See mirror.)

SNERT: Someone acting childish or rudely. This would imply a set of online "standards." LMAO.

Now, Gerald, here's where chat rooms get trickier. Abbreviations become abbreviated because the goal is to communicate in the shortest of shorthand. Words become mere nubs:

K: OK.

Y: Why.

A/S: Age/Sex. (Quick tip: Don't slip and write back "15F." I can't explain why here.)

Pic: Picture.

M: Male.

4: For

M4M: Male for male. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

IMs: Instant Messages. This is another whole story. While you are in a chat room, you'll probably be contacted by Instant Message. Don't panic. It's just strangers masquerading as other people in hopes of luring you across state lines for illegal and immoral purposes (real friends call first). An IM conversation typically begins like this:

DEMISE25432: "Hi."

DEMISE25432: "A/S?"

DEMISE25432: "Pic?"

DEMISE25432: "Helloooooo?

The popular slurring of the letter "o" indicates either maniacal impatience, or in the case of "soooooo," means a change of subject is requested or the writer wishes to continue the conversation started before your husband woke up from his nap. And if someone slurs their "m" at you, turn off your computer and immediately buy your wife some jewelry.

Keep in mind, certain screen names spell trouble -- screen names TROUBLE and any with the words DADDY or GYRL in them (HOOTERSGYRL, LILGYRL).

But there are many innocent screen names (POOH, THUMP-ER, AMAZOND--WITCH) and harmless chat rooms, such as "Ask a Witch," and "Kournikova or Lipinski?" In "Mormon Q & A," I asked alleged Mormons for their thoughts on the resurgent Donny Osmond, and I was captivated by their responses:

"I PERSONALLY HATE DONNY."

"DONNIE IS SOOOOOO CHEESY."

"Y'KNOW THOSE OSMONDS -- THEY BREED FOR TEETH."

"DONNIE [expletive]."

Sometimes, you'll be in a chat room and your heart will go out to some member. "No one ever plays the bassoon ... sigh," JazzyGyrl recently wrote in the "Artists Cafe" chat room.

Resist reaching out to her. Although her pain may be real, she has "GYRL" in her screen name.

Soooooo, Gerald, be careful but have fun, K? It's a big, beautiful world out there in cyberspace. You'll need all your wits -- and lots of jewelry. LOL.

E-moticons

E-moticons are keyboard symbols that quickly communicate feelings, or emotions, to help clarify or reinforce a message. (Look at them sideways.) Here are a few:

:-) grin

:-I indifference

:-( disappointment

(-: user is left-handed

8-) user wearing sunglasses

:-() user has a mustache

;-) a wink

:-@ user is screaming

:-& tongue-tied

:-D laughter

:-O shocked, or user is yelling

:-/ skepticism

: ( real downer

B-) user wears horn-rimmed glasses

For more e-moticons, check out the Windweaver Web site at www.windweaver.com/ emoticon.htm.

Cox News Service

Shorthand

Instant Message and chat room users have their own shorthand and inside jokes to keep messages zinging back and forth. Standard "Internetese" includes the following acronyms as well as mood symbols called "e-moticons."

AFAIK -- As far as I know

BRB -- Be right back

BTW - By the way

FWIW -- For what it's worth

FUBAR -- Fouled up beyond all recognition

GD&R -- Grinning, ducking and running (after snide remark)

GTG -- Got to go

INAL-- I'm not a lawyer (but ...)

IDK -- I don't know

IMHO -- In my humble opinion

IYKWIM -- If you know what I mean

IYKWIMAITYD -- If you know what I mean and I think you do

LOL -- Laughing out loud

OTF -- On the floor

OTOH -- On the other hand

PMFJI -- Pardon me for jumping in (a polite way to get into a running discussion)

PMJI -- Pardon my jumping in (another polite way to get into a running discussion)

RTFM -- Read the "fascinating" manual (usually in anger)

POS -- Parent over shoulder (teen shorthand for "change the topic quickly")

TIA -- Thanks in advance

TPTB -- The powers that be

TTFN -- Ta-ta for now

ROTFL -- Rolling on the floor laughing

RSN -- Real soon now

SOHF -- Sense of humor failure

SWALK -- Sealed with a loving kiss

SPAM -- Stupid persons' advertisement

WRT -- With respect to

WYSIWYG -- What you see is what you get

YMMV -- Your mileage may vary (You may not have the luck I did)

YWIA -- You're welcome in advance

Cox News Service

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