Back in 1995, the average mobile phone user was sending around one text message every two months.
Fast forward to today, and worldwide there are over 20 billion text messages sent every day. If you include WhatsApp messages in that number, it rises to 50 billion a day.
Whichever way you stack it, that’s a huge amount of digital waffle.
Its comes as no surprise then, that in the years since text messaging gained popularity, whole new aspects of language have developed because of them.
It’s even present in the Oxford English Dictionary. Check out the strangely formal entry for OMG:
"OMG int. (and n.) and adj.: 'Oh my God' (or sometimes 'gosh', 'goodness', etc.)".
And it’s not just OMG that has entered into our everyday lexicon. Other Oxford English Dictionary entries include FYI, LOL and BFF plus many more.
Getting to the point
People of a certain generation (namely those who had 1999’s Nokia 3210) remember the pain of trying to fit text messages into the 148 character limit so they wouldn’t be charged for two messages.
This meant a wholly new system of slang developed out of the need to save 12p. Obviously it wasn’t just that, but you get the picture.
Early examples include substituting numbers for letters, such as ‘gr8’, and cutting vowels, namely ‘txt’ for ‘text’ or ‘obvs’ for ‘obviously’ (obvs). Slang terms such as ‘tomoz’ for ‘tomorrow’ also became popular.
Then came initialisms.
Initialisms are words that have been condensed down to their first letters, and include OMG, IDK and LOL. New ones are invented each year, and they’re normally the preserve of younger generations.
This is so much so that courts in America have had to start consulting the Urban Dictionary in order to understand transcripts.
And what happens when words can’t be shortened down anymore? You say it with pictures of course, or in this case, Emoji.
Reckoned to be the fastest growing language in Britain, Emoji started life in Japan and was designed specifically for electronic messaging and web pages. The big leap to the mainstream outside of Japan came when it was included on the iPhone, shortly followed by Android. The Emoji language has great versatility, in that the pictures can come to mean many different things to many different people. It’s also outrageously popular, as according to a Talk Talk mobile survey, 72% of 18-25 year-olds find it easier to express themselves through Emoji pictures than words.
So what does this mean for the future?
Will newspapers one day consist of nothing but colourful Emoji pictures? Will words cease to exist all together?
Let us know what you think in the comments below!
K thx bai