- Published on Wednesday, 29 April 2009 03:27
- Written by Katherine Foley
Blach Junior High School seventh-grader Katherine Foley demystifies the secret language practiced by her kind, to the befuddlement of most adults.
I'm not here to betray my kind and give this town the secrets to teenspeak. Oh, no. It's been a constant source of discreet teen communication, after all. I'm just here to reflect on this revolutionary new language, both spoken and used in instant messaging (IM), that occurs in books, movies and real life.
A popular book series is often enjoyed by teens and adults alike when it grabs the public's interest – teens, because they've got a book that's not "boring" and "stupid," and adults, because their teens are reading.
Lauren Myracle has written one of these mutually enjoyed series with her Internet Girls Series (Harry N. Abrams Inc., 2004-2008). Written entirely in the most popular contemporary form of teenspeak, IM or "text-speak," her books were read and enjoyed by teens like myself. Only three books long ("ttyl," "ttfn" and "l8r g8r"), this series does not seem likely to be completely understood by anyone outside our age bracket. (The abbreviation ttyl stands for talk to you later, ttfn means ta ta for now). Of course, there's the author, but not all adults are old and stuffy, right?
Not all the books cited include IM speak exclusively. There is the typical teentalk, where teens actually put down their cell phones and talk – but even this may not be completely normal.
Particularly popular when it first came out, Lisi Harrison's The Clique Series (Poppy, 2004-2009) managed to present the same language identification to slightly younger readers. The girls of this series, seventh-graders and popular girls, live on disses (translation for adults: insults) and their own code, as well as their cell phones. Harrison seems to have a great time going overboard with stories of middle-school popularity. The point is to laugh at these girls, but readers could find themselves wishing to be like the butts of the joke.
Guess how this wish is applied in the real world? By adopting the language of those very girls, their addictive teenspeak.
Stories and narratives aside, teenspeak is habit-forming, used often and annoys the heck out of adults. Understanding is only a factor of your age and whether you ever get out of the house. It's not for adults to speak. Any teen who has ever heard his or her mom say, "Whatever, dude," can understand that.
It's important, because without it, thumbs would be weathered and time would be wasted. If you don't know what I'm talking about, clearly you haven't had to navigate middle school while socializing on a cell phone.
You can find both series at the Los Altos libraries.