The number one threat to both corporations and parents—the thing that will strap a metal choke collar around their necks, pull tightly, and bring them, gasping, eyes tearing, to their knees—isn't the widening generational gap in the workforce, or even the economy, it's acronyms. More specifically, text and Internet shorthand. OMG LOL WTF?
For instance, there was this one woman one time who opened an NSFW email at work, expecting to see a short video about New Seahorses Frolicking, Whee! or maybe a note about an upcoming National Something Fun for Women 5k walk. Instead, her innocent, always appropriate-at-work eyes were subjected to photos of a walrus with an erection. And then she was fired!
From The Wall Street Journal:
Kate Washburn didn’t know what to make of the email a friend sent to her office with the abbreviation “NSFW” written at the bottom. Then she clicked through the attached sideshow, titled “Awkward Family Photos.” It included shots of a family in furry “nude” suits and of another family alongside a male walrus in a revealing pose.
After looking up NSFW on NetLingo.com—a Web site that provides definitions of Internet and texting terms—she discovered what it stood for: “Not safe for work.”
“If I would have known it wasn’t safe for work, I wouldn’t have taken the chance of being inappropriate,” says Ms. Washburn, 37 years old, a media consultant in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Wait, she wasn't fired? So she opened a slightly inappropriate email at work because she didn't know what a dumb acronym stood for, and she felt the slightest twinge of regret about it? If only she had known what NSFW stood for! She could have avoided a complete non-incident! Great story, Wall Street Journal. That anecdote only illustrates how truly unnecessary it is for people to learn and understand "text shorthand"—but that's not gonna stop companies, people, and parents from trying.
Taking time to learn the jargon may seem like a WOMBAT (“Waste of money, brains and time”). But with over one trillion text messages sent and received in the U.S. last year, according to CTIA-The Wireless Association, an industry trade group, you run the risk of feeling out of it if you don’t.
Actually, learning how to hold a textersation isn't just a WOMBAT it's a FRUITBAT (Fucking Really Un-Interesting Timewaste, But Alright: Thewallstreetjournal). But, sure, if knowing what ETDOTB 1135 (Estimated time of delivery of the bomb: 11:35pm) or CCC (Cute cute cute!) means makes people feel more in the loop then why not? Teaching textersation skills to gullible companies is even giving enterprising young people jobs:
Bert Martinez Communications LLC, a Houston-based consulting firm, hired a 20-year-old and two teenagers last fall to help teach texting vernacular to its staff of six. “It gave us the confidence that we could use the lingo and connect with the younger clientele on their level,” says Bert Martinez, president of the firm, which now conducts about 20% of its communication with clients via texting.
Hmm. That's definitely gotta help with all the texts about meeting up at the elite nude club that Bert Martinez Communications sends out to its clients. And if you're an untrusting, nosy, paranoid parent, understanding text language can even help you communicate, well, spy on your children, because children are always up to no good:
Teenagers, for their part, text in code for a reason, says Anne Mitchell, president of the Institute for Social Internet Public Policy, based in Boulder, Colo. “It is usually because they are involved in activities which they don’t want their parents to discover, such as casual sex, drugs and alcohol,” she says. Indeed, parents may be startled by such popular terms as GNOC (“Get naked on camera”), POS (“Parent over shoulder”), LMIRL (“Let’s meet in real life”) and IWSN (“I want sex now”).
Aww. You can almost hear the envy in poor, dull, middle-aged Anne Mitchell's voice when she describes all the drunken good times the kids are out there having while she sits in a cubicle in an office park in Boulder, Colorado poring over lists of text messages full of lust and desire and intensity—things she hasn't felt in so long, things she wonders if she'll ever feel again. Sometimes, when scrolling through the intoxicating teen text terms, she'll press her nose right up to her laptop screen, close her eyes, and she'll swear she can feel a rush of cool air sweep through her hair. Goosebumps will sprout on her arms and legs and body and she'll know she's felt youth once again, however briefly.
Of course, Mitchell shouldn't worry: teens aren't nearly as exciting as you think they are. Just watch NYC Prep. All they want to do is have dinner parties, and call their peers "children," and play with their hair, and break up with other kids in front of that stupid cube in Astor Place.
Then there's this:
The consequences of misunderstanding the lingo can be mortifying. Cassandra McSparin, 23, of Jim Thorpe, Pa., knew a woman whose friend’s mother had died. The woman texted her friend: “I’m so sorry to hear about your mother passing away. LOL. Let me know if there’s anything I can do.”
It turns out she thought LOL meant “Lots of love.”
Sure she did. She's texting a condolence to a good friend, but she doesn't know what LOL means? If everyone learns text shorthand then no one can claim ignorance when caught callously taunting a friend about their dead mom—and that is a tragedy for us all.