Is lolspeak / internet speak (such as "plz send teh codez") bad English, or a different English?

I can't really describe what'd be "bad", but a lack of consistency would be an indicator it's bad.

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    Can you be specific about what you mean by "structure"? – nohat Mar 13 '11 at 2:21
  • I am not sure I would classify lolspeak as English. It would be like writing English using Cyrillic, and still calling it English. – kiamlaluno Mar 13 '11 at 2:50
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    @kiamlaluno: A language is a dialect with an army and a navy, and I don't think lolspeakers have an army and a navy. – Andrew Grimm Mar 13 '11 at 3:09
  • That doesn't help in classifying a dialect as English dialect. – kiamlaluno Mar 13 '11 at 3:14
  • "different English" = "bad English". ;-) – ShreevatsaR Mar 14 '11 at 11:42

Is it bad English? Yes, I'd say so.

Is it a bad language? No, not really. No more than, say, pig latin.

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    Just what the world needed, a language even more confusing than English. – Ralph Gallagher Mar 13 '11 at 2:39

Like Leet and txt, Lolspeak is an almost exclusively textual form of communication that arose to fulfill a specific need. While Leet appeared as an obfuscated hacker shibboleth and txt to circumvent the content length restrictions on SMS messages, Lolspeak appeared to serve the needs of Lolcats.

I'm sure there are other examples of written-only forms of communication such as these, which are obviously closely related to English, but I would argue that they are not English proper, simply because they're not always immediately intelligible to the uninitiate—and sometimes that's the point. In that regard, they count as dialects, but of a sort that till now simply never had the opportunity to appear.

People make verbal use of expressions derived from these dialects fairly often, but it's usually restricted to a highly specific context and is often facetious. Gamers in certain circles have long used expressions derived from Leet, most notably own; people of all sorts have been caught saying brb, lol, and, in one of very few non-joking uses, B T dubs (btw) as verbal shorthand for by the way.

I'm at RIT, so I definitely hear lolspeak expressions with greater regularity than most, but I believe lolspeak is an active and important part of the culture of people who live both online and irl.


To extend on Jon Purdy's answer above, three points should be kept in mind:

  1. Lolspeak (as described here) is used as an insider marker for a subset of Internet users. Many similar examples exist of coded language that members of a group use to reinforce community bonds.

  2. The primary purpose of Lolspeak is to caption photos of cats (and, rarely, rabbits, dogs and other animals). It is intended to represent the speech of animals, not humans.

  3. It is, functionally, a "joke." A running gag. Humor. It is not a variant of English, a Creole, a patois, a pastiche, or a dialect.

I would continue, but I sense that Ceiling Cat is watching me.

  • ...It might have started as the language of lolcats, but it's grown past that, I'd direct you to my facebook, but...Seriously though, I use lolspeak to emphasise my own idiocy, and so do most people (read: college students) I know...For example, the other day I skyped: "XXXX, you are a computer scientist. The rest of us are happy if we can say 'i kan haz inturnetz!!! YAI!!!1!11' and happier if we don't have to think that much. Get used to it." That said, I have never captioned a lolcat, or even spent much time looking at them. Same goes for a lot of people I know. – kitukwfyer Apr 11 '11 at 1:56
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    That does not contradict my remark. – The Raven Apr 11 '11 at 4:21

To the Keepers Of The Faith (whatever faith that might be) anything new is "Bad". However, it clearly came into being to serve a need, just as English or any other language evolves to better meet the needs of those it serves.

I think the real question is Is it English, Is It a dialect of English, or is it something different enough to be considered in its own right? Other than noting that it is obviously based on English, I personally don't have the expertise to make this judgment.

Also note that it exists for communication within a specific environment - you don't hear it on the street in face to face spoken conversation - only when the conversation is electronic. I'm not a linguist. Are there other living, natural, languages that exist only in written form?

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