Ttyl, k?

It’s past midnight and you’re in the bus on your way home. It’s only you and another girl, and strangely enough, you’re sitting next to each other. It’s quiet but for the roaring engine of the bus and – can this really be? – her energetic typing on her phone’s keyboard. You sneak a peek to the side and squint at the sequence of abbreviations and smiley faces on the screen that you find neither entertaining, nor comprehensible.

As the next stop approaches, the girl shuffles in her seat and types even faster than before.

Her fingers go:

“its l8, gotta run. bbm me.”

She doesn’t wait to read the reply and slides the phone in her purse. A moment before the light on the screen goes out, you see a single “k.“ appear.

And there you go: Thirty-four characters, more or less two grammatically correct English words, and you’re already communicating. Impressive.

But first, let’s decode:

“its l8,” This means, “It’s late.” Yes, this indeed is an L followed by an 8; people have been using numbers instead of letters or whole words for years and years now – what’s the eye-rolling all about? “Gotta run” means what it means, although I’d argue that it’s a waste of characters and it might as well go by ‘gr.’ Next time, perhaps. BBM is obviously BlackBerry Messenger, and in case you don’t believe that it’s that obvious, just make a mental note the next time you wait for a friend to answer your question, because they had to “BBM first.” K?

Good, I think we agree.

Today’s technology has encouraged, if not even forced us, to think in terms of 140-character messages. You wouldn’t want to pay another 20 cents for a text message, now would you? No, so I’d say you scrooge, you. The same goes for you Twitter-ers – nobody would like to split one thought in three Tweets, right? As far as BBM-ing is concerned, character limits might not be an issue there, but I sometimes secretly wish they were.

And don’t get me wrong, I go click, click, click as well as the next person, but I guess I am still one of the increasingly fewer who use spoken language as a tool of communication. Everything in its time, though. Conformity might be right around the corner, and the next thing I tell all the messengers might not be, “Get a life” anymore, but something perhaps a bit more concise. You know, to save characters. GAL might be a good start.

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