Text Messaging Lingo

A new language, casually known as text messaging lingo, has become so prevalent that entire web pages are devoted to translating the acronyms and shortcuts into English. We might have once thought that the explosion in cell phone usage would just cause an accompanying explosion in telephone conversations. But a new phenomenon occurred as the letters on the phone keypad suddenly gained significance. Whether or not it was the teenagers of the world who first discovered the usefulness and practicality of text messaging is not known. But they have certainly claimed the technology for their own and, in so doing, developed a lengthy list of text messaging abbreviations for parents to decipher. The sending and receiving of quick messages, limited to 160 characters, via the cell phone's wireless lines have wreaked havoc on family budgets while allowing teens to communicate, furtively, secretively, with one another no matter where they are -- in the classroom, in the movies, even when they're supposed to be sleeping. There is no denying that the incredible advances in Internet and cell phone technology are changing the way people communicate with one another.

The code of text messaging lingo is shared with instant messaging conversations, in chat rooms, on forums and discussion boards, and in email. In fact, the prevalence of text messaging abbreviations is identified by language experts as computer-mediated communication. And, of course, computer-mediated communication is usually referred to by its own acronym of CMC. The science of language is known as linguistics and the linguists who specialize in CMC are fascinated that they can observe, first hand, the evolution of changing vocabulary and the rules of punctuation and grammar as people become more comfortable with using common acronyms and shortcuts to quickly send a message or to express an emotion. It's much faster to tap out LOL than "laugh out loud" in response to a joke or to send the ever-popular smiley face icon. These kinds of acronyms and shortcuts are needed because of the obvious disadvantages of computer-mediated communication -- the lack of facial expression and tone of voice. A smiley face can soften words that might be taken the wrong way by the recipient and adding "j/k" to a message means "just kidding."

Of course, kids aren't the only ones sending texts and instant messages. Parents find the technology can be an unobtrusive means of checking up on Junior's whereabouts without embarrassing him. A simple "Where RU" allows the teen to give an update and none of his pals need to know. Co-workers can send quick updates to one another and a boss can easily and quickly check in with her secretary without a single word being spoken. In addition to the more common text messaging abbreviations, various groups (whether family members, a peer group, or a particular office) often come up with unique acronyms to stand for particular words or phrases commonly used within the group. All these aspects of computer-mediated communication excite some linguists and disturb others. Educators also are divided in how they view the CMC phenomenon. Part of the concern is that the English language will dominate the international community and this may result in the loss of native languages, almost like a reverse Tower of Babel effect. The Genesis writer tells us that long after the Flood "the whole earth was of one language... And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, ...let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth... Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth." (Genesis 11:1,6-9) Many experts see English as the dominant language of the Internet. However, other linguists see the Internet as a means of preserving those languages that are in danger of being lost and recognize the positive aspects of increasing cross-cultural communication.

Educators also are divided on the entire issue of CMC. Some are concerned because students often include text messaging lingo in written assignments. These teachers worry when students ignore long-established spelling and grammar rules. Other educators find creative ways of embracing how comfortable students are with texting to teach important lessons. These teachers claim that students increase literacy skills when texting is accepted as a legitimate means of communication. In fact, skilled teachers believe that the most students do understand that different forms of writing are suited for different audiences. Computer-mediated communication, though popular for peer interaction, is just one form out of several. Teachers who embrace the legitimacy of CMC can use text messaging abbreviations as springboards for discussions of classic literature. Creative educators can show students how the English language has changed over the centuries from the stilted, difficult passages of Shakespeare to the up-to-the-minute post on a well-known blog. Teachers are also finding success in the classroom by assigning students the task of writing poetry within the limitations of a text message. A major British newspaper even sponsored such a contest and gave a cash reward to the winner.

Only time will tell whether native languages are lost or almost extinct languages are preserved as a result of the Internet and CMC. Or whether students will gain or lose common literacy skills after years of using text messaging abbreviations. But it's safe to say that text messaging lingo is here to stay. Wise parents will learn the meanings of acronyms, linguists will consider watching in amazement as language changes before their eyes, and teachers will need to create relevant curriculum to teach literacy and literature to the CMC generation.

Bulk Text Messaging

Global corporate communication involves bulk text messaging more now than ever in the past. With over 70 percent of all mobile users communicating using SMS (short messaging service) on their phones, displaying a company's advertisement or contest is quite vital in reaching those most affected by texting, rather than other forms of marketing media. This 70 percent represents over one billion mobile phone and hand held device users worldwide. One billion people do not sit through radio commercials or save the marketing fliers they find in their mailboxes, but an untold multitude of technology savvy individuals read the screens of their hand held phones. A business or individual can reach a growing, active market segment with the simple use of group text messaging. Outside of the business sector, bulk text messaging is helpful in communicating plans, calendars or changing needs to select groups.

For example, members of a church youth group could stay on top of changing plans for the camp out by group text messaging as the plans unfold. In this way, all the teens are reached with the information regardless of whether or not they are home to receive a land line phone call or at their computer to read an email update. What a handy technique of reaching a mass amount of individuals now available to business owners and individuals globally with a far smaller advertising budget than is necessary for television, radio and print media campaigns. Communication across wide terrain is getting easier and easier. "Wherefore he said unto the messengers of Benhadad, Tell my lord the king, all that thou didst send for to thy servant at the first I will do: but this thing I may not do. And the messengers departed, and brought him word again." (1 Kings 20:9)

A short messaging service will allow 160 characters or fewer. This is including spaces. Brevity is of utmost value while texting. For this reason, many phone users that utilize short messaging services write many of the messages in camel case. Camel case is a form of capitalizing the first letter of each word, without placing a space between words (MuchLikeThisParentheticalExplanation). Not only has spacing been altered to accommodate the limited allowable characters, but the spelling of words has also been altered or shortened to allow more words per text. An example of this is the phrase "laugh out loud" being abbreviated as "LOL," or the word "text" is often rendered "txt." With these spelling changes and sentence alterations, businesses can use group text messaging to articulate their marketing goal or the benefits of their products. Text messages, unlike incoming calls, cannot be screened or rejected. Therefore, the person who is receiving the message must at least look at it and potentially read some, if not all, of it.

There are two types of gateways available to companies interested in bulk text messaging. The first gateway is called the aggregator model. In this model the message originator has several agreements with multiple carriers of mobile service to transmit information to and from the originator's platform. However, there is no delivery assurance or transmission time guarantees with this model. However, the SS7 model, also called the international termination model, works with the SS7 protocol in order to send messages. What is the SS7 protocol? Simply, it is the technological "language" that the phones "speak" to each other, and it supersedes carrier networks. It is the "highway" on which the messages transmit, regardless of the "car" (phone) the recipient may have. This allows for delivery guarantees, because the message does not have to go from the originator's network, through the recipients' networks. This traffic delay can often result in loss of the message. With the SS7 model, the text is sent along the SS7 protocol, and therefore is not delayed by the many mobile carriers along the path from sender to recipients. This is especially desirable in mission-critical messages and corporate communications.

A business utilizing group text messaging is harnessing the power of the current appeal of texting. Though the United States does not display the extreme love of short message service, it is still quite popular among United States phone users between the ages of 18 and 24 years old. Sending and receiving SMS is so popular that the word "texting" is now part of common vocabulary. Young people are even accused of being addicted to receiving and sending notes through short message services. With the sheer volume of messages and the inability to block or deny them, people who prolifically text often feel an urgency to be available to read the text. With this urgency, a business can send emails, advertisements, contest information or product details with relative assurance that the recipients will feel compelled to look at, if not read, the sent message. This is far greater percentage of receptivity provided by other media outlets.

Now, most satellite technology is set up to receive and send SMS messages. Skype also receives and sends short message service information. As long as a short message service device can interface with a computer, group text messaging is possible through even an email protocol. Even devices like hand held schedulers and blue tooth technology driven products typically come with SMS capabilities. A company that utilizes the SS7 protocol to advertise can now do so to a myriad of users, receiving on multiple platforms, in almost every country in the world. To be globally known and technologically relevant will add credibility and desirability to the message sent from the message originator. In this way, the form of the advertisement goes a long way toward verifying the content of the advertisement. The sheer fact that a company can reach globally, across multiple mobile provider's protocol and in the common language of the day will encourage the recipients of the bulk text messaging campaign to take note.

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