Summary: Leetspeak gives a whole new meaning to linguistic elitism. If you're unfamiliar with the phrase, you have a lot of learning to do! It's not too late to catch up, so read on ....
Leetspeak (also known as l33t5p34k by its own 'alphabet') isn't new. It's been around in various forms since the 1980s, but has grown in popularity progressively to today, when it's proliferated language—and easily, too, since so much of our conversation is done electronically now. It's pronounced just like it looks: (LEET - speek). Contemporary online and urban dictionaries include the term and its special language as common practice.
If you're under 25, you probably already know the definition of leetspeak. But if you're not under 25, you may be surprised to learn that you already know and use leet (its shorthand name) relatively regularly.
Here's a brief list of leet lingo and definitions to help you out:
l8tr – goodbye (as in, "see you later")
n00b – newbie, someone who's inexperienced or new to the activity at hand
pwn – to own, to rule or to best another
w00t – hooray
Its etymology comes from the world of hackers, and it's an abbreviation for elite—as in the select few who understand the code. As you've likely determined, it often combines alpha and numeric keys to create a type of sub-language.
In addition to text messaging, this language is still used commonly in online gaming communities, where it can be quite advanced, utilizing entire sentence strings that look so similar to code that I couldn't successfully cut and paste them here to show you examples: They tricked my blog-posting program into thinking I was inserting unrecognizable HTML commands!
Unfortunately, I don't have a link for a leetspeak dictionary to share with you, because I couldn't find any that didn't include offensive language. However, I do have an interesting article link from well-known word-lover Mark Peters (my fellow blogger on Blogspot's Wordlustitude), titled "The Decade in Words" to really get you thinking this week.
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