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Text Messaging: Teen’s Foreign Language Baffles Parents

Kids seem to speak their own language. They always have; they always will. After all, young people sort of share the same tongue, and some of them pierce their tongues as well, but that’s another fad.

Sari calls her girlfriend at school “BFF”, (Best Friends Forever), and Jack constantly tells me, “TMI”, (Too Much Information), whenever I have to explain any kind of bodily function. Even the overused, full-of-attitude word, Whatever, is shortened to just “WE.”

The latest style of “QSO” (Conversation) seems innocent enough, but these abbreviations are actually derived from an even more bizarre communication called text messaging. This text-based lingo twists the alphabet into secret codes that encourage “KPC,” (Keeping Parents Clueless) and causes lots of “CSG,” (Chuckle, Snicker, Grin) toward anyone who doesn’t get it.

Meanwhile, I continue “RME,” (Rolling My Eyes) because I can’t keep up with all the changes in today’s so-called social interaction. I guess I better “GAL” (Get A Life).
Then again, I’m a “n00b” (Newbie) at text messaging.

Did you know that instead of “BYOB” (Bring Your Own Beverage) to a “PRT” (Party), it’s more commonplace to say “BYOC,” (Bring Your Own Computer), or “BYOp,” (Bring Your Own Paint, as in Paintball)? This is strange to me. Not only that, as soon as I catch onto the expression, “Been There, Done That,” it shrinks to “BTDT.”

Because of the popularity of cell phones and computers, young people have found a new way to converse that goes way beyond “ASAP,” “TGIF,” and “FYI.”

“AAMOF,” (As A Matter Of Fact), it’s amazing that anyone knows how to really spell at all anymore.

Let’s face it, kids today are “AATK”, (Always At the Keyboard), whether they like the immediacy and compactness of the new communication media for recreation or education. Plus, their modern dialect allows them to talk “A3” (Anytime, Anywhere, Any place) via instant messaging, e-mail, Internet, online gaming chat rooms, discussion boards, and cell phone text messaging, even during bar and bat mitzvah parties.

Text messaging sounds so impersonal, but it doesn’t have to be. To convey humor, users can choose from “OTFL” (On The Floor Laughing) or “LQTM” (Laughing Quietly To Myself) and “GOL” (Giggling Out Loud) and the letter combinations go on and on. To apologize for something, users type in “IMS” (I Am Sorry), and to convey sadness, there’s “555” (Sobbing, Crying) or “CLAB” (Crying Like A Baby).

For lack of nothing better to do, a “G/F” (Girlfriend) can send “143” (I Love You) and “H&K” (Hugs And Kisses) to her “B/F” (Boyfriend) because she is “BOOMS,” (Bored Out Of My Skull) or “ZZZZ” (Sleeping or Bored) during math class. To save someone’s life, good advice would be “ST&D” (Stop Texting And Drive). When tired of the whole thing, it’s time for a “CB” (Chat Break).

Teens need their privacy, which is why parent alert codes are widely used, including “9” (Parent Is Watching),“AITR” (Adult In The Room), “MOS” (Mother Over Shoulder), P911 (Parents Coming Into Room Alert), “PAW” (Parents Are Watching), and “PSOS” (Parent Standing Over Shoulder), etc.

If text chat isn’t weird enough, the standard keyboard characters and punctuation also are used to express emotions, called emoticons. For example, to show a smiley face or a smiley, a colon and a close bracket is used in the sequence that looks like the facial expression. The colon is the eyes and the bracket is a sideways smile.

It looks like this : )

If you tilt your head to the left, you’ll see what I mean. Still don’t get it? Then a kid would assume “AYSOS” (Are You Stupid Or Something)?

Emoticons are important because the little symbols illustrate the sender’s mood and intent. For example, “GAL” with a smiley face is meant as a joke and “GAL” without a happy smiley is supposed to be rude.

Typically though, most teens are all about manners and use “THNQ” (Thank-You) and “YW” (You’re Welcome) to show their appreciation. Likewise, they practice their social skills with “EMFBI” (Excuse Me For Butting In) or “PMFJI (Pardon Me For Jumping In) when they want to add .02 MY (Two Cents Worth) in a P2P (Peer To Peer) dialogue.

Of course, text messaging can be a legitimate communication tool for parents who want to ask their child “RUOK” (Are You Okay?) or if their youngster will “BHL8” (Be Home Late). Then again, in my day, I would simply pick up a phone and call my mom. Parental control software is another option for keeping track of what a teen is doing and with whom.

Bottom line, parents need to educate themselves about text chat lingo, such as “420,” (Lets Get High, as in Marijuana), and the Internet world in general, including how to protect a child from online predators and cyber bullying on blogs, such as MySpace.

To find out more about how the Jewish community is teaching parents the tools for Internet safety, read next week’s column.

So for now, “GB” (Goodbye) and “GBU” (God Bless You).

“Mishegas of Motherhood” is the creation of Ellie S. Grossman, a St. Louis freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom who never stays home. Currently, she is obsessing over the entertainment for her son’s upcoming bar mitzvah, so please feel free to send any advice to: ellie@mishegasofmotherhood.com or visit her website at www.mishegasofmotherhood.com.