Parent's primer to instant messaging slang
Do you speak 'leet'? Understand how your kids communicate online to help protect them
While it's important to respect your children's privacy, understanding what your teenager's online slang means and how to decipher could be important in certain situations and as you help guide their online experience. While it has many nicknames, information-age slang is commonly referred to as leetspeek, or leet for short. Leet (a vernacular form of "elite") is a specific type of computer slang where a user replaces regular letters with other keyboard characters to form words phonetically—creating the digital equivalent of pig Latin with a twist of hieroglyphics.
Leet words can be expressed in hundreds of ways using different substitutions and combinations, but once one understands that nearly all characters are formed as phonemes and symbols, leetspeek isn't difficult to translate. The following serves as a brief, and by no means definitive, introduction to Leet through examples.
Key points for learning leetspeek
- Numbers are often used as letters. The term "leet" could be written as "1337," with "1" replacing the letter L, "3" posing as a backwards letter E, and "7" resembling the letter T. Others include "8" replacing the letter B, "9" used as a G, "0" (zero) in lieu of O, and so on.
- Non-alphabet characters can be used to replace the letters they resemble. For example, "5" or even "$" can replace the letter S. Applying this style, the word "leetspeek" can be written as "133t5p33k" or even "!337$p34k," with "4" replacing the letter A.
- Letters can be substituted for other letters that may sound alike. Using "Z" for a final letter S, and "X" for words ending in the letters C or K is common. For example, leetspeekers might refer to their computer "5x1llz" (skills).
- Rules of grammar are rarely obeyed. Some leetspeekers will capitalize every letter except for vowels (LiKe THiS) and otherwise reject conventional English style and grammar, or drop vowels from words (such as converting very to "vry").
- Mistakes are often left uncorrected. Common typing misspellings (typos) such as "teh" instead of the are left uncorrected and may be adopted to replace the correct spelling altogether.
- Non-alphanumeric characters may be combined to form letters. For example, using slashes to create "/\/\" can substitute for the letter M, and two pipes combined with a hyphen to form "|-|" is often used in place of the letter H. Thus, the word ham could be written as "|-|4/\/\."
- The suffix "0rz" is often appended to words for emphasis or to make them plural. For example, "h4xx0rz," "sk1llz0rz," and "pwnz0rz," are plural or emphasized versions (or both) of hacks, skills, and owns.
It's important to remember that the leetspeek community encourages new forms and awards individual creativity, resulting in a dynamic written language that eludes conformity or consistency. However, there are a few standard terms. The following is a sample of key words that haven't changed fundamentally (although variations occur) since the invention of leetspeek. The first series is of particular concern, as their use could be an indicator that your teenager is involved in the theft of intellectual property, particularly licensed software.
Leet words of concern or indicating possible illegal activity:
-"warez" or "w4r3z": Illegally copied software available for download.
- "h4x": Read as "hacks," or what a computer hacker does.
- "pr0n": An anagram of "porn," possibly indicating the use of pornography.
- "sploitz" (short for exploits): Vulnerabilities in computer software used by hackers.
- "pwn": A typo-deliberate version of own, a slang term used to express superiority over others that can be used maliciously, depending on the situation. This could also be spelled "0\/\/n3d" or "pwn3d," among other variations. Online video game bullies or "griefers" often use this term.
Other common leet words:
- "kewl": A common derivation of "cool."
- "m4d sk1llz" or "mad skills": Refers to one's own talent. "m4d" itself is often used for emphasis.
- "n00b," "noob," "newbie," or "newb": Combinations synonymous with new user. Some leetspeekers view "n00b" as an insult and "newbie" as an affectionate
term for new users.
- "w00t" or the smiley character \o/: An acronym that means "We Own the Other Team," used to celebrate victory in a video game.
- "roxx0rs" Used in place of "rocks," typically to describe something impressive.
- "d00d": Replaces the greeting or addressing someone as a "dude."
- "joo" and "u": Used instead of "you." This is also commonly written as "j00" or "_|00."
- "ph": often replaces "f," as in "phear" for "fear" (as in "ph34r my l33t skillz") and vice versa, such as spelling "phonetic" as "f0|\|371(."
I am so glad we have the internets at work now :) Weee!! I think I am going to go to the Rincon Market and get me a sammich...I'm hungry! :)