Magazine article Verbatim


Magazine article Verbatim


Article excerpt

If you are older than fifteen and only use your computer for e-mail and balancing your checkbook, or--quel horreur--have no computer at all, then you probably aren't familiar with the preferred online communication style of online gaming geeks, hacker wannabees, and adolescent chatroom denizens: l33t, pronounced "leet."

Supposedly, l33t (also written 1337 and l33+) arose as a way to beat automatic government surveillance programs (especially the fabled Echelon program) that looked for keywords in online postings. As with most language origin stories, this should be taken with a grain of salt, but it is commonly accepted among l33t users.

L33t, like other in-group languages, is deliberately complicated to keep the cognoscenti in and everyone else out. However, it has to be (more or less) intelligible in order to be propagated. And being the province of the compufolk, it has fairly regular rules, so that translator programs can be written to convert plain old boring (semi-)standard English in and out of it.

You may have already realized that in l33t, the numeral 3 makes a handy substitute for the letter E. A quick glance across the number pad may show you that it's not inconceivable that 4 could substitute for A, 1 for I, 0 for O; 7 for T, and 5 for S. These are the basic substitutions, but there are many others. For example,

   1 is often used for L as well as I; 6 and 9 are occasionally used for G, 8
   can fill in for B, + for T, and $ for S.

The more ambitious, obnoxious, and nimble of finger use |-| for H, |3 for B, (for C,|) for D, |[ for F, | for I, |< for K, _| for J, |_ for L, |V| or A ^^ for M, |\| for N, |o for P, 0, for Q (that's 0 plus comma), |2 or the truly opaque |)\ for R, V for V, |[??]| for W, `/ for Y and -\_ for Z.

In addition, one can use 8 for the `ayt' sound (e.g., 18 or L8 for `late'); @ for the `at' sound (as well as for the letter A), Or for--er endings, # for the `ash' sound (e.g. c# or k# for `cash'), K for hard c spelled c (e.g. k@ or k@+ for `cat') q for ck (fuq), j for y (mostly in j00, `you'), x for the sound spelled ck (e.g. h4x0r for `hacker'), eh for word-final y (e.g. happeh for `happy'), z for voiced s, 00 for long U, and PH for the `f' sound, as in phear or more l33t-ly, phj34r.

Random capitalization is also encouraged. The use of teh as a deliberate misspelling of `the' is the norm. Verb tenses are optional, with the present tense sufficing for all uses. Objective pronouns are used for subjective pronouns. Occasionally, the \ (or sometimes [??] or **) is used to highlight an action, usually a real-world action: "\Me g0 gr4b s0Me k0ph33." ("I'm going out for some coffee.")

Some users differentiate between light (or llama) and heavy (or hardcore or advanced forum) dialects of l33t, depending on how far from standard English it diverges. Some users even recommend that you use light with friends and heavy with superiors (e.g., people who are better gamers than you are).

To be truly l33t, not only your spelling but your rhetoric must change. Instead of "I don't agree" you might say "F00l! BOW TO M3!" If you agree, you may say "U R0XX0r!" Since much of l33t-sp33k takes place in gaming contexts, there's a rich array of gaming jargon. …

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