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XS sounds like excess, B4 sounds like before, XLNC sounds like excellency, etc. What are these wordplays called?

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You might be interested in William Steig's book C D B? – simchona Oct 2 '11 at 22:42
up vote 11 down vote accepted

After some googling, I found the term grammagram referring to this type of wordplay. While not as common/official as rebus, this term is much more specific, since a rebus is usually mostly pictures, with few letters. It is an RL-coined (Richard Lederer) word, apparently (see this thefreelibrary entry), which, together with the comparative rarity of grammagrams themselves, would explain its uncommon status.

Personally, I'd use it, though rebus (or letter rebus) would be more widely understood.

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The OED doesn't have 'grammagram', but it does have ‘logogram’ – ‘a sign or character representing a word'. It's not clear if the definition can be extended to cover more than one sign or character, but it seems pretty close. – Barrie England Oct 3 '11 at 14:02

That sort of wordplay is called a rebus.

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A rebus usually has pictures as well. – Barrie England Oct 3 '11 at 13:53
True, but pictures are not required to make it a rebus; at the wikipedia link you can see some examples which are all-letter rebuses, just as the OP's are. – Hellion Oct 3 '11 at 14:03
I agree that rebus fits the bill, albeit loosely. I suppose one could say letter rebus if one wanted to make it more specific. – Daniel Oct 3 '11 at 17:15

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