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Neopia's Fill in the Blank News Source | 31st day of Swimming, Yr 23
The Neopian Times Week 72 > Articles > Chatspeak put in Perspective

Chatspeak put in Perspective

by sarakrindel

LENNY LIBRARY - In all my time on Neopets, I have discovered the curious fact that most people who use "chatspeak" don't know what chatspeak is. My definition of chatspeak is the usage of 'u' instead of 'you' and 'ne' instead of 'any' and replacing many other words with syllable combinations which sound alike, but it is not using acronyms (a fancy word for only using the first letters of a phrase) like BTW (By The Way) and LOL (Laughing Out Loud). Typos also do not count as chatspeak.

Many users of neopets enjoy using "chatspeak", and others dislike it. The question is, why? On this I have some theories.

Some people have claimed that they write more quickly when using chatspeak. However I suspect this is only the case when it is used heavily. I think in plain English, so it flows more smoothly for me. Also, some chatspeak does tricks like replacing and 's' with a 'z', which really doesn't speed things up.

From what I gather, the real reason that chatspeak is popular is that it's cool in some circles, which is perfectly legitimate. It's the same reason I wear jeans to school, and put up my hair in weird styles. I can understand a certain fascination with coding language, or just breaking convention period. Sometimes people just write messages to show off their chatspeak and how many words they can replace with a chatspeak equivalent.

At my school there is a girl who immigrated from Ukraine, and while she knows English, she has a strong accent, talks at half the speed of a fluent speaker, and she has a knowledge gap when it comes to American culture which most other students take for granted. My first impression of her was that she was stupid, although I didn't say it out loud. However, as I have known her for months, her English is gradually improving, and she is the sweetest person I know, but even today I still have to constantly fight my first impression.

Now the great thing about the internet is that you can take all the time in the world to write something, and it won't look any different than if you typed it in seconds. As the girl mentioned earlier does have a firm grasp of English grammar, she would be indistinguishable from somebody who knew English as a first language on a website like Neopets.

A frequent complaint about the use of chatspeak is that it's hard to understand. While it is certainly unprofessional, I can usually get at least the gist of a message in chatspeak, unless it's a message which is showing off chatspeak, in which case I often can't comprehend it. And with a message only using simple chatspeak, such as "How r u doing aftr ur flu" the meaning is pretty obvious. What is hard to understand is when people don't use proper capitalization or punctuation, as it's difficult to distinguish you phrase from another. Frequently people who use no punctuation are also very redundant, and are again show-offs.

But while I understand chatspeak, it is much slower to read than plain English, and the more complicated the chatspeak, the slower. When reading most people hear the words aloud in their mind. If they have to read it slower, then they hear it slower. My theory is that you get the same effect as when you hear somebody unfamiliar with your language when you read chatspeak, and it's just like the girl from Ukraine - people jump to conclusions and think you're dumb. Chatspeak is definitely a less serious way to communicate that plain English, so it weakens a serious conversation.

If somebody can't understand your chatspeak, or can't understand certain parts of it, your IQ in the other person's eyes lowers. Generally if someone perceives somebody to be stupid, chatspeak user or not, they will be irritated by their presence.

There are of course other factors which tick people off about chatspeak. Many people have negative connotations with chatspeakers for being scammers, beggars, and just people who like to annoy others. This is often not the case, and nasty people also use plain English, but first impressions are unfortunately the hardest yous to resist.

Why chatspeak users don't consider each other to be stupid, I could make guesses about, such as they are wrapped up in the "cool" quality of chatspeak, but I can only read my own mind, not their minds.

We all have the right of freedom to speech, and there is no law which says you have to be grammatically correct. But if you like to use chatspeak, and a guild forbids it, that should be a warning sign that it isn't the right place for you. If you can't stand chatspeak at all, and see a guild where it's used on the front page, then that guild isn't right for you either. If you like breaking rules, don't expect to be very popular. If you enjoy using chatspeak with your buddies, fine, but when in doubt, I say use plain English. I haven't met a single person who has been offended by spelling correctly and punctuating properly.

I'm sure you've deduced by now I am one of the people who gets miffed by chatspeak. I believe that the slower reading of chatspeak certainly contributes to my low opinion of it, but I still don't fully understand why I dislike it so much, and I am perfectly aware of the holes in this theory. If you have any ideas, or just opinions of this article, feel free to Neomail me.

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