Word Count: 1742Netspeak:An analysis of Internet jargon Approximately 30 million people world-wide use the Internet and online services daily. The Net is growing exponentially in all areas, and a rapidly increasing number of people are finding themselves working and playing on the Internet. The people on the Net are not all rocket scientists and computer programmers; they’re graphic designers, teachers, students, artists, musicians, feminists, Rush Limbaugh-fans, and your next door neighbors. What these diverse groups of people have in common is their language.
The Net community exists and thrives because of effective written communication, as on the net all you have available to express yourself are typewritten words. If you cannot express yourself well in written language, you either learn more effective ways of communicating, or get lost in the shuffle. “Netspeak” is evolving on a national and international level. The technological vocabulary once used only by computer programmers and elite computer manipulators called “Hackers,” has spread to all users of computer networks. The language is currently spoken by people on the Internet, and is rapidly spilling over into advertising and business. The words “online,” “network,” and “surf the net” are occuring more and more frequently in our newspapers and on television.
If you’re like most Americans, you’re feeling bombarded by Netspeak. Television advertisers, newspapers, and international businesses have jumped on the “Information Superhighway” bandwagon, making the Net more accessible to large numbers of not-entirely-technically-oriented people. As a result, technological vocabulary is entering into non-technological communication. For example, even the archaic UNIX command “grep,” (an acronym meaning Get REpeated Pattern) is becoming more widely accepted as a synonym of “search” in everyday communication. The argument rages as to whether Netspeak is merely slang, or a jargon in and of itself. The language is emerging based loosely upon telecommunications vocabulary and computer jargons, with new derivations and compounds of existing words, and shifts creating different usages; all of which depending quite heavily upon clippings. Because of these reasons, the majority of Net-using linguists classify Netspeak as a dynamic jargon in and of itself, rather than as a collection of slang. Linguistically, the most interesting feature of Netspeak is its morphology.
Acronyms and abbreviations make up a large part of Net jargon. FAQ (Frequently Asked Question), MUD (Multi-User-Dungeon), and URL (Uniform Resource Locator) are some of the most frequently seen TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) on the Internet. General abbreviations abound as well, in more friendly and conversationally conducive forms, such as TIA (Thanks In Advance), BRB (Be Right Back), BTW (By The Way), and IMHO (In My Humble Opinion.) These abbreviations can be baffling to new users, and speaking in abbreviations takes some getting used to.
Once users are used to them, though, such abbreviations are a nice and easy way of expediting communication. Derivation is another method by which many words are formed. The word Internet itself is the word “net” with the prefix “inter-” added to it. Another interesting example is the word “hypertext,” used to describe the format of one area of the Internet, the WWW (World Wide Web). The WWW is made up of millions of pages of text with “hotlinks” that allow the user to jump to another page with different information on it.
“Hypertext,” derived by adding the prefix “hyper-” to the word “text,” produces the definition “a method of storing data through a computer program that allows a user to create and link fields of information at will and to retrieve the data nonsequentially,” according to Webster’s College Dictionary. Proper names also make a large impact on the vocabulary of Net users. Archie, Jughead, and Veronica are all different protocols for searching different areas of the Internet for specific information. Another new use of proper names is for descriptive purposes. For example, the proper-name turned descriptive noun/verb/adjective “Gabriel” has come to be understood as a stalling tactic, or a form of filibustering; “He’s pulling a Gabriel,” or “He’s in Gabriel mode.” Most frequently, this type of name-borrowing happens due to highly and widely visible actions by an individual on the Internet.
Onomatopoeias are also widely found in net jargon, as it’s often necessary to get across an action such as a sigh or moan, without having