COLM O'REGAN: Internet speak will soon be our language

Resistance is futile. Internet-speak is going to take over your lives, writes Colm O’Regan

Some of you will escape by going off the grid to West Cork and setting up an organic honey-farm, or dying. Or both. But the rest of you who have held out and avoided social media conversations until now, are finding it hard to avoid drifting inexorably towards a screen with the familiar mid to dark-blue bar across the top.

Slowly though, you are being attracted to Facebook pages. You are being asked to Like and Share to Win A Chance Of Dinner For Two at the Kilinashandumfetterick House Hotel. Or the neighbourhood watch page has told everyone to “watch out lads deres a white van with dubln reg going around and gerry kealey says he had a lawnmower robbed”.

There has been much talk that Facebook is passé for young people and that they are all skulking away to escape the prying eyes of older generations. They’re apparently migrating to other social networks, with exotic and increasingly fantastical names like AAAAAGH! (a social network where you have to gain acceptance by videoing yourself slicing off your finger) and GOAWAYWEHATEYOU (a site where everyone hates but you stay on it because you’re a teenager and teenagers have always stuck around in horrible situations in order to be in a group.)

Best of luck to them. They’ll be back. Instead of being a place “for people to talk about what they had for breakfast”, social media is increasingly becoming the breakfast table itself where conversations are taking place across many age-groups.

And even if you’re avoiding Facebook, maybe you’ve been added to the Family WhatsApp group. (WhatsApp is like being to text all your family simultaneously to go easy on the drink or take a coat in case it rains.) With this crossover of generations, the social media conversation resembles one of the original usages of the word ‘social’ - the parish social where they’re raising funds for the Tidy Towns. Outside the hall, some teenagers are smoking in the rain, but inside it’s everyone from 21 to 100. And they’re all talking.

With mixing of people comes the introduction into the language, of slang that started on the internet, or started away before the internet but has become popularised very quickly. Words that started in the most outré of surrounding are being typed into smartphones by people who brought Nana to Galway for the Big Novena.

LOL - laugh out loud - is old hat. Everyone knows that. But you might need to be aware that LULZ is slightly snarkier one coming from obscure hacking message-boards. When you write “I can’t even” about anything to do with the Olympic Council of Ireland, you are using a phrase that started somewhere between “Mean Girls” and Tumblr. I shouted “YASSSSS QUEEN” at the baby the other day when she was dressed in a particularly fetching stripy top. Turns out it originated with something a Lady Gaga fan said on meeting his idol (Lady Gaga is a pop singer who’d be FIERCE alternative altogether). It shnaked into my vocabulary almost subliminally.

It won’t be long before you are accusing one of your children of “throwing some major shade” on their father, perhaps unaware it’s a term from the US drag queen circuit.

Words have always moved from one background to another but now it’s different. It took decades for the word “cool” to get from the jazz club to one of your parents saying “I know it isn’t ‘cool’ to be different but I’m not letting you out to that disco” but Granddad will be yelling “SWAG” at a Nathan Carter concert before the year is out.

Mark my words. You heard it here first. Although I don’t know where I heard it.


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