Perhaps slang isn’t so bad after all…


Thumbs—not just for hitchhiking.

These days, teenagers use their thumbs to text rapid-fire messages to their friends using their cell phones. But, because keypads on cellphones are so tiny and typically thumbs are not, and each number key represents multiple letters, the tight maneuvering can lead to quite a few spelling mistakes.

These mistakes of then lead to LOL (laughing out loud)—and to neologisms.

The rapid-fire world of texting has lead to the creation of new words. Well, new slang words.

For example, did you know that pwn means own and that totes means totally?

You may be wondering, how can a spelling error create a new word? It has to do with staying power. And these days a slang word is more likely than ever before to linger around. That’s because of where the slang is being used—in cyber space—it has a higher chance to reach across age groups, demographics, cultures, and societies. It can permeate. It can be thrown into the main stream and suddenly, what was once a spelling error is now a common word even heard in a conversation out loud.

Should we begin to worry about how slang and short forms are affecting teens’ language development? Not if they are able to use whole forms and demonstrate complete and competent language skills in they areas that need to, like in proper speech or on an essay.

According to Katherine Barber of the Dictionary, “If the kids are picking up new words and new meanings then that means that they’re playing with the language.”

Spelling errors and the new words that develop from rapid-fire text messaging mean that children are thinking about letters, words, sounds, and meaning. Teens are exploring language subtleties and are playing an active role in language development.

Teens thinking about language and new words? They deserve two thumbs up.


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