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L33t or its various other titles* is a derivation of English but I have no idea what term should be used to describe it. Other examples of these things would include lolspeak and the massive alterations involved in commonplace texting.

Wikipedia suggests that l33t is an alternative "alphabet" but that only covers the letter/number conversions. "Alphabet" doesn't address the lingo and structure (*cough*) that l33t employs.

Perhaps this question is too far outside of the scope of this site. L33t itself suggests a culture of its own but no one over there can agree on anything and any popular lingo today will be forgotten or replaced by tomorrow. Its worthiness is totally debatable but I still want to know what to call it.

* Included here for future searches: leet, leetspeak, l33tspeak, l33tsp34k, 1337, 13375p34k

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"massive altercations" are the primary reason I avoid texting... –  PSU Mar 23 '11 at 18:17
    
@PSU: Whoops, nice catch. –  MrHen Mar 23 '11 at 18:23

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

It's a kind of argot, jargon, or insider's lingo.

argot — An argot is a secret language used by various groups — e.g. schoolmates, outlaws, colleagues, among many others — to prevent outsiders from understanding their conversations. The term argot is also used to refer to the informal specialized vocabulary from a particular field of study, occupation, or hobby, in which sense it overlaps with jargon.

jargon — specialist language: language that is used by a group, profession, or culture, especially when the words and phrases are not understood or used by other people

lingo — set of specialized terms: a specialized set of terms requiring to be learned like a language

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I'd just say l33t is an informal dialectal transcription format, not dissimilar to txtese, chatspeak, etc.

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It should be appropriately grouped in with simplistic encryption methodologies, along the same lines as Pig Latin. The wording is rarely dissimilar to standard English, albeit poorly written.

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As far as I know, the usage of l33t has nothing to do with encryption. Perhaps we have had different experiences? –  MrHen Mar 23 '11 at 18:09
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While l33t is hardly in the same league as 128-bit AES encryption, it is specifically intended to be somewhat opaque to outsiders, as with all jargon. –  FumbleFingers Mar 23 '11 at 18:22
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It's original development was in being exclusionary. The goal being that those who knew about it, or were able to look at it in a different light would pickup the context, while others would not. Again, look at it in the same context as Pig Latin, the linguistic goal is obscurification of the root language. –  DivinusVox Mar 23 '11 at 18:27
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@DivinusVox - prior to that it was used within the hacking community to obfuscate files and folder names from searches and to evade text filters. Thus allowing the users to trade w4r3z and discuss their 1337 h4x without getting b&. –  Robb Mar 23 '11 at 19:22
    
@Robb - Exactly, obscurification. –  DivinusVox Mar 23 '11 at 20:30

It's almost more of an orthography than argot. It has characteristics of both, but if you think about its spoken form it's really not much more than slang. The written form is very different, though, so that suggests that it's primarily a way of writing.

DivinusVox is correct in relating it to Pig Latin and other forms of light obfuscation.

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