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Turn that frown sideways :-)

Instant messaging has spawned a language all its own

Instant messaging has spawned a language all its own

June 27, 2003|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

Like millions of other computer savvy kids, my daughter "talks" to her friends through instant messaging software on our home computer - in a language I don't understand.

"ATM, I'm waiting to find out if you can come over this WKEND. FC. Gotta go now. BBL. TTFN."

Say what?

Instant messaging (IM) on computers and text messaging on mobile phones has become a communications staple in the digital age. The number of people who IM will explode from 141 million in 2000 to nearly 1.4 billion in 2004, according to a study done by The Radicati Group, a California-based consulting and market research firm specializing in all areas of messaging and collaboration, directory services, e-mail security and unified communications.

Instant messaging differs from e-mail the most in that its primary focus is immediate end-user delivery, according to the How Stuff Works Web site at www.howstuffworks.com.

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"It really is like talking on the phone," says Cassy Heyer, 12, an avid IMer from Fairplay. "The only thing is that it's a lot harder to type like you talk."

That's one reason that the immensely popular new technology has spawned a language all its own.

Cassy and other instant and text messaging aficionados often dot their computer and cell phone messages with a kind of shorthand made up of acronyms, abbreviations and emoticons, which are short sequences of keyboard letters and symbols that express feelings.

Cassy says these composition shortcuts make "talking" online faster and help indicate the "speaker's" tone of voice.

So parents, if U WAN2 learn 2 SPK TXT, check out the sample text dictionarysample text dictionary that accompanies this story, or surf the Web for more complete listings.

It's also important to know who your kids are talking to. Instant messaging allows users to maintain a "buddy list" of people with whom they want to interact. Messages can be sent to any of the people on the list as long as they are online, according to the How Stuff Works Web site.

Cassy's America Online Instant Messenger buddy list contains the names of nearly 40 friends and family members, she says. She IMs about three times a week - and talks on the phone a lot less because of it.

As the parent of a 12-year-old girl, I'd say that's a definite plus.

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