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Thursday, March 23, 2006

What's In A Word?





As an English major and someone who writes professional documents all the time, I never expected to indulge in the perceived madness of internet speak. But, wow, did I sink quickly into that linguistic mire.

It started with "lol." Ah, the gatekeeper word. Can you blame me? I mean how are you supposed to convey laughter in an MMO? Sure, you can write "haha," "hehe," or the more popular "heh" but that doesn't really get the job done for some reason. When I first said "lol" I told myself I was using it ironically. But at this point, all traces of irony are gone. I've turned into a pretty bad offender, shortening "though" to "tho" at times. And while I've never said "rofl" (well I probably have) I do use my own variant "lolol" when something is extra funny. I'm sure I picked that up somewhere (probably from a typo) and I know it sounds stupid. But I like it.

Now, obviously, a lot of this type of language use originated from the internet and is hardly restricted to MMO's. But you do have MMO-centric slang too, such as "woot," "ding," and "afk." I put "uber" in this category as well even if it isn't quite as MMO-centric. Then you also have what I consider MMO technical terminology such as "kite," "nuke," and, of course, "aggro." There are also some acronyms like PITA which I suspect are used more for the purported cleverness of the acronym rather than anything else.

I've noticed a slight decline in the uses of the words "woot" and "ding" but maybe that's just my personal experience. I just don't see them flowing forth that freely any more and they're starting to sound a bit archaic, like saying "bravo" at a sporting event. Well, they're still in common usage, but I just see them diminishing in use. I'm not sure why, perhaps all words run their course.


In a similar vein, I only ever see "uber" used ironically: i.e. "We're so freaking uber," (as a joke when failing to kill a mob) or "Check out Mr. Uber over there with the 28 master spells listed in his bio." Maybe that was always the usage. I don't know. It's sometimes intentionally misspelled as "ubah" for perceived comedic effect as well.

"AFK" on the other hand is as popular as ever but that's a bit different because it is near essential to accomplishing its purpose. I don't see "AFK" ever going out of style. I could do without the occasional "bio" addendum to it. Just my personal taste. "Grats" is another one that I see having staying power, though maybe not to the degree of "AFK." Note to the people who make macros which say, "*Grats on your achievement*" and just spam the macro whenever someone levels: stop. Better to say nothing at all and it's obvious.

Another thing I've noticed is that while
YTMND fad language makes its way into WoW, I haven't really ever seen it in EQII. I'm referring to things like, "o rly," "l2play," and "(blank) is serious business." Maybe that's just because a lot of WoW users are YTMND visitors and vice versa. Or perhaps a larger number of subscribers just leads to a greater chance of fad carryover. I'm not downplaying YTMND, I happen to be a huge fan who knows every fad. Same goes for SA, another huge source of internet fads. I'm a tremendous SA fan. I'm just making an observation.

Well, I write some of these non news-specific posts over the weekend and since then I was on the Nagafen server in EQII. There, on the level 20-29 channel, in the span of an hour, I heard the entire history of internet fads from the venerable "All Your Base" to the quasi-recent "Chuck Norris." Literally. I'm not going to draw any conclusions about what that means at this juncture, just stating reality.

Obviously, some internet fads and the resulting catch phrases are so powerful they cross over between games, such as the infamous Leeroy Jenkins.

I've come to accept MMO slang and even embrace it. I see four reasons behind the general usage of MMO slang:

1. As I said earlier, a method of expressing things which are difficult to express through text. Also, a means of convenience for shortening words.

2. Societal influence is also a clear factor. People tend to talk like their peer groups. People that are into punk, hip-hop or computers all tend to have their own form of dialogue. And even amongst a tightly-knit group of friends, certain slang tends to find special use and catch phrases become popular and burn out. The same is true in MMO's. We tend to talk, or type, like the people we spend a lot of time with in an effort to be accepted into that peer group. It's just human nature.

3. A means of expressing personality. Without facial expressions and normal speech it may seem hard to get a grasp on a person's personality. But the use of MMO slang and emoticons sometimes helps us convey our personality and get a feeling of the personalities and even moods of others.


4. It's amusing.

I haven't seen that many new slang words coming into play outside of the occasional fad. Maybe that's due to the incursion of Teamspeak and Ventrilo and we'll never really see many new slang words. I've been catching myself saying "o" a lot lately and that probably annoys people. I don't know where I picked it up. I just use it in reply to statements as a shortening of "oh" as if that's not short enough. Maybe it comes from the aforementioned "o rly" fad but I tend to think it's a derivative of "o i c."

We may also see very specific and situational slang arise. Someone did inform me of the new word, "Qoob" for noob from Qeynos. As I said, quite specific and probably quite limited in usage.

Nick Yee put together this
MMO Lexicon which is great but I'd like to see someone do a deeper study someday. If one hasn't been done already.

31 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Desribing Al Your Base as 'venerable' sure makes me feel old...

Also, you could point out to annoyed people that 'O' is Latin for 'Oh' :)

6:43 AM  
Blogger Krystalea said...

The one that drives me batty the most is kk. Which, of course, I use. "Going AFK" "kk"

Although I have noticed, loot (heard that on the news the other night) and uber and starting to be used a lot outside of MMO's. Really interesting to follow the word and watch how they also play out in RL.

8:20 AM  
Blogger Quylein said...

All Your Base" to the quasi-recent "Chuck Norris

Should of been.

All Your Base R belong to Chuck Norris.

You can make the correction when seen fit.. Chuck Norris might be offended

10:43 AM  
Blogger Zygwen said...

The acronyms used depend a lot on the guild you are in and its culture.

I tend to use lol when I really do lol. I also use heh for things that are somewhat humorous and do not warrent a lol. I also use a lot of :P prefering that over :) even if some people mis-interpret the meaning.

I've been known to use iirc and afaik but many don't know what these mean.

One that gets me in RL is lvl. I often catch myself writing lvl instead of level in RL documentation.

10:58 AM  
Blogger Anskiere said...

okay weird thing but "heh" bothers the hell out of me.
I come from chats/whatever back in the day where "heh" was like an upset/annoyed/ect sound. I mean, when you laugh at something you don't say "heh".. I always make at least a "hehe" for a little chuckle.
It takes every fiber of my being to ignore the "heh" that goes on, becuase a lot of people use it as a laugh... but I keep seeing it as something bad. :)

11:06 AM  
Blogger jaipehg said...

I refuse to use "lol," hehe. I have for years.. way before I played any MMO. I do use "rofl" if something's hilarious, though. ;)

You know there's two aviaks in the Barren Sky named Orly and Yarly, right? Hehee!

And on the word "heh." Drives me absoloutely NUTS. It's not a laugh! It's sort of an annoyed, "Well.. whatever." type sound. Some people I know use it in response to everything and I feel like I'm annoying the fluff outta them, hehe. You said it to me once on PVP and my first thought was "Gah, I said something stupid." :P


..Your word verification doesn't like me. :B I had to switch browsers so I'd get another word'cause it wouldn't accept my original one. And no, I did not post this to the wrong post, originall. >_>

11:12 AM  
Blogger Quylein said...

I'm oppposite I try not to use LOL but in the past few weeks ive been a LOL freak. My wife is always like pronoucing LOL lol LoL lol.. just to annoy me becuaes I use it to much latly.

I prefre Heh, I do actualy make smrik laugh that sounds they way Heh would be. So for me I would rather see heh. Hehe and Haha are more childish to me so therefore you wont see me use those.

now hehe and haha are hard for me to swallow just about as much as those like me that use LoL all the damn time.

12:37 PM  
Blogger Twodragons said...

I tend to scale the abbreviation with what I actually do:
hehe - made me grin
lol - I'm chuckling
LOL - made me laugh
ROFL - Only if I'm ACTUALLY on the floor

You can also glean a lot about the person by how they type. I've found that those with the patience to use proper sentence structure, capitalization, grammar, and spelling are usually more mature.

12:38 PM  
Blogger warm_machine said...

I've never seen "kk" as another version of "bio". Most people I know use it as a form of acknowledgement.

As for the "heh" haters, I get how it's seen is seen as a kind of slight. I've always seen it used as a type of snicker. If you want to be obnoxious, that's when "meh" comes in.

I'm with twodragons on using a graduated scale to best express my RL moods in-game. /shrugs

1:04 PM  
Anonymous Bhagpuss said...

Just felt I had to point out that not only do many of these phrases not originate in MMOs, they long pre-date the Internet itself.

LoL, ROFL, ROFLMAO, IIRC and many more probably derive from Science Fiction fandom of the 1930s, specifically from the APAzine culture (APA = Amateur Press Alliance - mimeographed or photocopied personalzines which in themselves prefigure Blogs).

I first learned them in Comics APAs back in the 1970s but they were decades old even then.

Many txt msg terms are similarly ancient, having been in common use by radio operators during WW2.

1:46 PM  
Blogger Mercurie said...

I'm not sure I would place uber in the category of MMO-centric slang, or even slang particular to the internet. I seem to recall using as far back as the Eighties. I think it is more of a bit of "geek" slang, like fanboy or drek

2:07 PM  
Blogger Teh Chunt said...

Mostly, these phrases are a way to communicate something quickly. I think I used kk for the first time 2 nights ago, I really don't know why.

So much of it, for me, is about speed. If I'm hunting brownies in Antonica, I don't have the time to write out completely every word I want to say (I don't type well, though I graduated with an English degree as well :) So I use shortened versions of words whenever I can. The conversations I have while tradeskilling or sitting in town, compared to those I have in the field hunting, are very different. Kudos to those who can be fighting enemies and still have the time to type messages in perfect syntax and spelling, but I'm not one of them.

With all that said, people need a new hero to talk about constantly. Chuck is great and all, but why not Uncle Jessie from Dukes of hazard, or Locke from 24? Anyone but the bearded wonder...

2:10 PM  
Blogger Quylein said...

uber is german for bit with out the 2 dots above the U. Umlaout I belive it's spelled

4:06 PM  
Blogger Mercurie said...

Uber with the umlaut more or less means "about," "above," "above and beyond" in German. As a prefix it is pretty much equivalent the English prefix super (as in ubernaturalich--umlaut u's--"supernatural"). It's cognate to the English word "over."

1:37 AM  
Blogger Surbrin FireSlinger said...

I would like to ask the question of who coined the term "Gank". From the first moment I played PvP on Vox, I was hearing it constantly, and was confused. It definitely does not carry over to PvE except from those players that also play PvP. Of course, I just might be out of touch with the word and it has been used more. Any enlightenment would help out. Good post Aggro, will actually help me with a presentation in one of my classes.

1:04 PM  
Anonymous Tock Antonia Bayle server said...

the only one that really gets under my skin is typing "u" for "you". i use and read lol, brb, bbiab, afaik, tho, and quite a few others with great ease.

but i just can't get my brain to hear "you" when i see "u" by itself. i have to pause for a moment and translate. it hurts my brain...

2:33 PM  
Blogger Aggro Me said...

Surbrin, I think "gank" had a hip-hop/rap usage before it ever appeared in gaming lingo. But I don't have a direct source for you.

If anyone else does I'd be interested to hear it.

3:01 AM  
Anonymous Deryn said...

I applaud Aggro Me's insightful post into the jargon of MMOs.
Personally,I still let out the occassional "Woot" but also have noticed that it's use is in decline. I am a "kk" user but I use it only for OOC messages as a confirmation of a request.
I noticed the omission of "MOB" or "MoB" meaning an NPC monster. This was a common term used that I haven't seen as often as I once did.
"Gank" means "to gank" and I've seen it used to describe a high level PVPer killing much lower level players. A "ganker" has been used synonymously with "griefer" though I believe a "griefer" has a much broader meaning.

8:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

AFK started in the days of Usenet, not as an MMO-centric slang. Several other words also predate these games (one mentioned above was loot, which has been used as a verb for quite a long time, although not in conjunction with ninja until you got multiplayer games where you could get the items before another player). In truth, a lot of the 'for the cleverness of it' acronyms actually stem from geek/hacker subculture, and simply migrated out from there as more people joined the online so-called community. Others stem from when first-person shooters first became popular, and shorthand was needed to keep from dying while you talked (the origin of 1337 speak). And a lot of the worst ones... Well, we can blame the AOL chat rooms and lazy imbeciles for those.

Just my two cents.

1:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't have an English degree, but then you don't really need one to know the history of slang and/or acronym usage on the internet. Many of these terms listed above precede MMO by a long shot, having been regularly used in IRC or Usenet forums for years before the WWW existed. Having been online since the mid-80s on BBCs, I can say that much of the slang used today is older than the people who use it. I first used afk, bbiab, bbl, ttyl, ttfn, and brb myself in the early 90s on programs such as 'talk' and 'ytalk' or even through email between Unix/VaxVMS that couldn't communicate with the 'talk' program correctly. Woot is from Arsenio Hall, is it not? MOB is short for mobile NPC, first coined on DikuMUDs. PvP isn't new either, though it was more commonly referred to as PK (player killing/player killer) 15 years ago. I use a few of the phrases these days myself, but I am glad to have seen such abbreviated forms of communication such as laf and bog (boggle) disappear.

Interesting little article, but your research needs to go much further back than what you've listed here. Try talking to someone with 20 years in the computer industry, it may surprise you how long much of the 'fad' slang of today has been around.

My personal annoyances: u, r, 2, kk, ne1, sum1, y, b, and last but certainly not least wru. Half of those 'abreviations' save one keystroke, maybe two. It takes me longer to figure out what you are saying than it does to type the other letter. Ok, soapbox off :)

5:06 PM  
Blogger Weary Paladin said...

"Gank" at least the first time I heard it, was in 1987-88, on Eazy E's debut album from Ruthless Records. The year may be off a bit, but in that general timeframe.

6:12 PM  
Anonymous Falandir said...

I think you beter redo some research, AFK was being used in chatrooms on BB Systems before there was public internet acces on those bbs's that had multiple lines.

5:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TwoDragons said: You can also glean a lot about the person by how they type. I've found that those with the patience to use proper sentence structure, capitalization, grammar, and spelling are usually more mature.

...or in my case, it may not because I'm more mature, but because my OCD forces me to only type full sentences with perfect grammar :| oh well.

And about the 'heh' thing, I see it as being a little offensive. Like someone would use it as a polite laugh, but an insincere laugh.

7:43 PM  
OpenID ratnikh69 said...

It may already have been noted, but the term "aggro" derives from the designation of certain non player characters in early MUDs. All items are tagged as "objects" and some are "Mobile OBjects" hence the term "mobs" and some will aggressively attack you and are "AGGRessive Objects" or "aggro" to you. Hence all aggros are mobs, but not all mobs are aggros. It's also sometimes said that aggro (or sometimes seen as "agro") means "aggressive roaming object" implying that the object is mobile.

Much of this stems from MUDs (multi user domains) which were entirely text based and much of their programming terminology has filtered down to common usage, though few know the origins.

Other terms like Ding, Grats, Loot and Uber, insofar as they relate to MMO's are generally believed to have originated with EQ1. Of course some words were in prior everyday usage but as relates to MMO's EQ1 was a stage setter for much of today's common slang. Nerfing originates somewhere between EQ1 and Dark Age of Camelot (DAoC) as it relates to the Developers lowering the power of any given ability, weapon or attribute, thus rendering it as useful as Nerf foam bat. Twinking (see below also), as relates to Developer instituted changes can mean that a power/ability/weapon was increased in power, but generally with the implication that it was unwelcome or unfair.

Abbreviations such as BRB, IDK, IMHO, etc have a long lineage back to the modem-based dial-up BBS's of the 1980s. Even LOL, ROFL, ROFLMAO, emoticon smilieys and such date back to those days.

Many other common MMO terms have origins predating computer games, back to their pen & paper origins, which of course inspired the first MUDs and MMOs.

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