LOL? Don't you mean LMAO? Maybe you want to go all the way up to ROTFL, if the situation warrants it. As early as 2012, app developers began releasing software to help befuddled parents keep up with the evolving shorthand that their children were using to speak in encrypted code. That's because concerned parents who were diligent—or perhaps overbearing—tried to monitor their children's texting and online messaging habits only to discover that they had no idea what their kids were saying.
The first text message was sent in 1992 when a man named Neil Papworth sent the words "Merry Christmas" from his PC to the mobile phone of a colleague named Richard Jarvis. Today, 560 billion SMS messages are sent every month, or nearly 19 billion a day—and that's not including the countless apps and social platforms that enable direct P2P messaging. Many of the words and phrases in those texts are written in abbreviated shorthand, and linguists and educators have long debated whether the proliferation of texting acronyms is an evolution of language or a corruption of it. Are modern texters just lazy, or are they a new kind of bilingual, where they can seamlessly dip into and out of formal English whenever compelled by convenience or situational necessity? Either way, necessity certainly had something to do with the rise of texting shorthand.
In the pre-smartphone era, texting was carried out within the confines of the standard alphanumeric telephone keypad. The number “2,” for example, represents the letters A, B, and C. To type just the letter C, the sender had to press the 2 key three times. It was called multi-tap or T9 texting, and it was frustrating, laborious, and time-consuming. The fewer characters you had to type, the better. Early shorthand evolved to satisfy the need for brevity, but soon, texting abbreviations became an integral part of online culture that gave young people a way to communicate in secret right under the noses of inquisitive parents and teachers. Even if a message were intercepted, it would likely not be understood.
Today, there are literally thousands of widely used text abbreviations that people of all ages use all the time, whether necessity demands it or not. Find out how well you know the most common texting acronyms with this quiz.