Are text abbreviations a time-honored panacea?

Funny story written by Brandy Pasquino

Monday, 14 July 2014

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Text abbreviations are a part of our lives. Why do we use texting shortcuts? Nearly everyone will agree that they save time. For instance, to proverbially pat the back of someone who has said something exceptionally funny, you can simply type "LMAO". To give recognition to a friend who has been promoted to a managerial position at McDonald's, you can save yourself a lot of time by writing "props".

The demand for efficiency among mobile and regular internet users has increased in recent years. For example, instead of taking the time to type "ok", which on a regular keyboard involves one ring-finger keystroke followed by one with the middle finger, a common shortcut is to type "kk". This shortcut saves time because it involves two keystrokes, but requires the use of only one finger instead of two. Examples of other time-saving shortcuts include "coo" instead of "cool" and "wut" instead of "what", saving one full keystroke each.

A new fad, however, has left experts scratching their heads. It is now popular among teenagers to communicate with single-character texts. In an interview with middle-school student Ian Jacobs, he explained how conversations with his girlfriend are restricted to 100 characters or less. "Teachers are always watching us, to make sure that we're not texting, so we found it best to keep texts as short as possible," Ian explained. At first blush, the idea of a single-character text such as "a" may sound absurd, but Ian described that he and his girlfriend have a special code that they use to communicate. For example, "g" means "good morning, how are you?" while "i" means "i'm fine, thanks for asking!"

But there are only 26 letters in the alphabet, so how does Ian manage to keep a conversation afloat for an entire day? "Context is important for understanding our single-character texts," Ian explains. Apparently, since Ian knows his girlfriend's schedule, he will ask "1" when she is in a class that they don't share, which means "is your class going well?" If it's going very well, she replies with "!" and if it's going poorly she replies with "0".

A well-codified text language can simplify communications, and save time. However, things can go awry if a character does not logically follow from a previously sent character. Ian explains that "having different styles of communication with different people can be confusing at times." He further explains that he once mistakenly sent a full word "props" to his girlfriend, thinking that he was texting his friend Fred, who had indicated in another text that he had just kissed the prettiest girl in school. "I was really nervous when my girlfriend sent me a message with '??', which means that she is confused and upset, using two keystrokes instead of the typical one", said Ian. Apparently, in their codified language "props" means "I would love to eat from your sister's sexy hands".

New words are adopted by dictionaries all the time, but online dictionaries help keep our vocabulary abreast of changes in the English language. However, what about a single character that is introduced for the first time in a pair's conversation? For example, if two individuals have used 10 out of 26 characters for their conversations, what if an 11th character is thrown into the mix? "Dropping a new character can add to the complexity of the conversation because it requires an educated guess based on the history of texts and other important contextual information.", explained Ian. Ian indicated that he figured out that "h" meant "hello, are you there?", after realizing that it had been 4 hours since he last texted his girlfriend and, up to that point, they had used only 25 out of 26 characters in the alphabet.

There is evidence that text abbreviations improve the grammar and spelling abilities of children. The million dollar question is: will hours of guessing at the meaning behind a single-character text increase cognition? The only answer I can give right now is simply, idk.

At press time, we received reports that Ian has permanently solved the problem of the "wrong number text" by purchasing a dual-sim phone, which helps him to restrict single-character texts to his girlfriend.

The funny story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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