- The Washington Times - Friday, February 14, 2003

MILWAUKEE The text messages on Margarete Stettner's cell phone are filled with shortcuts such as "G2G" for "got to go" and "LOL" instead of "laugh out loud." Even when she isn't using her phone, the lingo sometimes makes its way into what she writes.
"It does affect, sometimes, how I do my schoolwork," the 13-year-old from Hartland, Wis., said as she shopped in a mall, where cellular phones were as common as low-cut jeans. "Instead of a Y-O-U, I put a U."
That alarms some linguists, who worry that the proliferation of text messaging where cell phone users type and send short messages to other phones or computers will enforce sloppy, undisciplined habits among American youths.
Other analysts, though, don't think the abbreviations will leave their mark on standard English.
In June 2001, wireless phone users sent 30 million text messages in the United States, said the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, an industry trade organization. By June 2002, that number had increased to nearly 1 billion.
The method is most popular among teenagers, said Upoc Inc., a New York-based firm that helps users of mobile devices share information on everything from the rapper Bow Wow to celebrity sightings. A study by Upoc in 2001 found 43 percent of cellular phone users ages 12 to 17 used text messaging, compared with 25 percent of those 30 to 34.
Those teenagers, hampered by limited space and the difficulty of writing words on numeric phone keypads, helped create the text-messaging lingo.
Words were abbreviated ("WL" for "will") and common phrases became acronyms ("by the way" turned into "BTW").
Dictionaries are available to sort out the meaning of, say, "AFAIK" ("As far as I know").
"SOL" can mean "sooner or later" or "sadly out of luck," but if you're not clear on which was meant, simply message back a "W" (what?) or "PXT" (please explain that) for a clarification.
Jesse Sheidlower, principal editor of the U.S. office of the Oxford English Dictionary, said text messaging is going through the natural progression of language.
Much text-messaging lingo was first used in instant-messaging programs on personal computers, and some phrases, such as "SWAK" for "sealed with a kiss," have been used for decades, Miss Sheidlower said.
As text messengers discover and share new abbreviations and acronyms, the language becomes familiar to a growing population of cell phone users. As more people use the lingo for text messaging, Miss Sheidlower said, it is more likely to spill into speech or writing.
That worries American University linguistics professor Naomi Baron, who says text messaging is another example of a trend in written communication.
"So much of American society has become sloppy or laissez faire about the mechanics of writing," Miss Baron said.
Other linguists said a simpler, more relaxed vernacular is acceptable for talking or text messaging.
"Language and languages change," said Carolyn Adger, director of the Language in Society Division of the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington. "Innovating with language isn't dangerous."
Text messaging hardly appears to have hurt written language in Europe, where 10 billion text messages are sent each month, said Charles Golvin, senior analyst with Forrester Research.
In fact, as more adults began using text messaging in Britain and Germany, the lingo fell out of favor, said Alex Bergs, a visiting linguistics professor at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. Even teenagers use the language for only a while, he said.

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