Text Speak Was Happening B4 U Might Think

Illustration for article titled Text Speak Was Happening B4 U Might Think

Turns out it's not just modern youths that can't be bothered writing out their words properly in communications—text speak was being used by lazy Victorian poets more than 100 years ago. 4 real.

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A forthcoming exhibition on the history of the English language at the British Library features excerpts from poetry from in and around the 1860s, many of which feature a similar style of abbreviations to the ones we disinterestedly poke into touch screens and instant messaging windows today.

Here's an extract from Victorian text speak poem "Essay to Miss Catharine Jay":

He says he love U 2 X S,
U R virtuous and Y's,
In X L N C U X L,
All others in his i's.

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Not entirely sure what some of that means, which probably means they were doing it right. Apparently, the Victorians referred to this style as "emblematic" and considered it a rather clever thing to do. [Discovery]

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DISCUSSION

Just goes to show that people keep thinking they're coming up with something new when they're just using the same solution people had previously.

"Text speak" was used in IM conversations before SMS was invented, and was used on Internet Relay Chat before AIM was invented, and was used on dial-up BBSes before IRC was invented.

In short, most people are crappy typists.