Thursday, July 3, 2008

A little language called leet

I’m going to digress from talking about memes and take some time to explore the Internet ‘language’ known as Leet.

The Leet ‘language’ is actually an alternative alphabet system with uses a combination of numbers and other keyboard characters to replace normal letters. So for example, Leet is spelled 1337 (1=L, 3=E and 7=T).

It was originally developed on bulletin board systems way back in the 1980s. One theory is that Leet actually came about so that people chatting on the boards could get around the text filters which picked up ‘forbidden’ topics like hacking and cracking.

It developed from there and then became a way to show off your knowledge of the in-joke. Lately though, Leet has become a part of ‘mainstream’ Internet culture and slang, and is even considered cheesy by ‘those in the know’. It is now also used to mock newbies (N00BZ), or newcomers, on web sites, or in gaming communities.

Why did they call it ‘Leet’?

Leet comes from ‘Eleet’ – which originated from ‘Elite status’ on Bulletin Board systems. Initially, the word leet was used as an adjective, to primarily describe ‘elite’ accomplishments.

Hax0rs Pwn

Besides simply replacing letters with numbers, Leet also has it’s own vocabulary.

Haxors or Haxorz is a common term meaning ‘hacker’ (and often it’s actually used in a self deprecating way or to insult someone).

Pwn is derived from ‘own’ and means the domination or humiliation of a rival (in an argument or video game, for example), or the successful hacking of a website or computer.

A lot of Leet words contain deliberate misspellings – and pwn is a prime example. The letter P is right next to the letter O on the keyboard, and so it might have originally been a common misspelling, which became an in-joke, and then eventually a standard word that everyone used.

LOL teh N00b Suxorz!!!!111one11!

If you don’t know that LOL stands for ‘Laugh Out Loud’, you should really get out more. LOL is considered to be part of Leet, but really this term has become so mainstream its practically a part of the English language by now.

Again, teh is deliberate misspelling which originated from people typing ‘the’ fast and making the error. It has been adopted as a part of Leet speak, and people deliberately type it incorrectly.

Noob or N00b is derived from, newbie (as in new and inexperienced or uninformed). Apparently, there is a widely accepted separation of the definitions of newb and n00b: a newb is merely new to something (usually the person also wants to learn more), which is forgivable, while a n00b continues to engage in "newb" behaviours long after they should know better (and usually refuses to learn). Generally the term N00b is insulting!

Suxxors or suxorz means to suck. The opposite of Suxxor is roxxor (to rock, basically) and both can be used as a verb or a noun.

Over exclamation is another common feature of Leet. When chatting in chat rooms or playing games online, people would often overemphasise, ending their sentences with many exclamation marks (so for example “Pwnage!!!!!”). Of course, people would end typing ‘1’ instead of ‘!’ (because they haven’t pressed the shift key down). As this was such a common mistake, people started making it on purpose, as a joke. The joke has evolved, and now people actually type out the number (for example: “I pwn!!11one!1!” or in the case of extreme sarcasm: “OMG!!!!111!11shiftone1!11shift1!!1111capslock1!one12131”)


Inspector Gadget said...

The internet has created a whole new language it seems. I started playing dotA recently and have had to get myself up to speed with the new lingo. The acronym I found most interesting was MIA which an actual army term meaning “Missing In Action”. Another great one is IMBA – meaning a player is imbalanced – meaning that they are really good :)

It’s interesting stuph. You can read the full post here


Anonymous said...

leet speak is a very broad and filled with nuance. you've done a good job explaining it.

Kirsten said...

Thanks Inspector, I checked it out. It's amazing just how much gaming slang is out there. TK for example is short for Team Kill (killing someone on your own team) but it can also stand for Type Kill (killing a player who is standing still and obviously typing a text message). But TK to your average teenage girl who chats online or with text messages will probably mean 'Take Care' (OK tk bye!)

Anon, thanks, there is so much I could cover, but really I just want to explain the basics so I could use it as a grounding to explain more memes and in-jokes like 'In your Base, killing your d00ds' etc.

Gustav Bertram said...

h00 1z t3h h4x0r ch1x0r? Sh3z h0t!

Kirsten said...

THX Gustav

hatcher said...

Nice explanation.

May be leet can be more useful than you think for predictive text input or typing esp. for cell phone.

Oizea type may be leet enough for you.

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