Photo: Wikipedia

One of the many enjoyable things about translating is that I’m always learning something new, no matter how short the text. I just finished translating a sample from a Belgian novel for middle-school-aged girls, in which the characters communicate face-to-face, on the phone, via email and via texting. 

My kids don’t have cell phones (yet) and I text only occasionally. It’s usually limited to “Are we still on for lunch?” I was aware of the existence of the texting lingo, but I hadn’t had any reason to check it out before.

When I was a kid, my friends and I would come up with secret code. It was never anything very sophisticated, of course, and we did it more for the sake of coming up with something difficult to break than for actually using it. But this texting code has got to be every young kid’s dream.

Here’s a sample of what I’ve learned.

It’s extremely truncated–which is the whole point, of course–and it’s fascinating how much information you can put in a few letters and/or numbers. Or, conversely, how few letters and/or numbers you really need to convey what you want. For example, all you really need in order to say oh-oh, we’ve got to change the subject to something innocent like what you’re having for dinner or if you liked Brave, because my father (and/or mother and/or any other pesky adult who might interfere in our top-secret activities and ground me and call your parents–who will then ground you, too)  just walked in the room is . . . P911, a.k.a the parent alert.

Although texting code was started by kids, there is now code for all sorts of situations and demographics. Shakespeare lovers can contemplate whether 2B or not 2B, hippies can arrange to meet at the 1174 and smoke some 420, procrastinators can AWLTP, discoverers go WNOHGB and Monty Python-lovers ALOTBSOL. If U really want 2 ROTFLYHO, read these texting abbreviations for seniors by the Car Talk guys. YGLT.

Of course, the children’s book from which I translated a sample will B read by kids W/ & W/0ut texting-code fluency, so the ABBRS R limited 2 what’s self-evident. But I bet it won’t B long B4 some1 writes a whole book in this code. Or mayB some1 already has. Hmm, G2G CTO.


P.S. If you want to know if your kid’s top secret activities are about doing homework and his/her first crush or about meeting up for oral sex, check out Netlingo. It’s also where I got most of the abbreviations I’ve used above, in case you CFTO.

2 responses to “U TTLY KWIM, Right?

  1. Ha ha! I was actually using Netlingo to look up the acronyms when I got to the part about you using Netlingo. My partner and I send texts to each other, but I guess we’re fossils because we use complete sentences. Fun essay!


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