First off, language is in a continuous change, whether we are talking about English, Romanian, French or Italian. If the internet has any influence on the language as we know it nowadays? It certainly does. But this does not mean that, hadn’t it been for the internet the language would remain the same. People are continuously trying to change the language and this is happening more or less willingly or consciously.
An article from BBC’s official website treats exactly this issue: how the internet is changing the language. They even start their article with the famous new noun/verb ‘google’. They also give the example of ‘rickroll’ (a famous singer whose name has, in time, become synonym with ‘trap’, ‘troll’, ‘lurker’, etc.). The problem nowadays is, in my opinion, not if the internet is changing the English (and not only) language; it is ‘Can we keep up with it?’.
We are the Pentium Generation – us who were born in the `90s when the internet began its quest to conquer the world and to make it virtual – and it comes naturally that most of us don’t even question the birth of the internet.
But what about our parents and our grandparents? How are they adapting and embracing these new communication tools? They have come to an age when flexibility is no longer among their strengths and this is available not only from a physical point of view, but also from a psychological perspective. Yes, they have an e-mail address and yes, they know how to search on Google (or, better said, how to google). But their internet abilities stop here.
In my opinion, it is our generation’s role to develop this second world, this internet – its look, its functionality and its language. Children nowadays learn to read much faster than they did in the past because they are forced to… by the internet. And they are accustomed to using a computer – for them it is something normal. They also learn a foreign language much quicker – and yes, that foreign language is English.
Why? Because the language of the internet is English.
There is another important factor that we must not overlook when analyzing the elements which lead to changings in the English language as we know it. An important aspect is time. We are living in an age which lacks time. This is one of the main reasons why people have started to shorten everything they can – and this includes language as well.
Some of the most common abbreviations that people use on the internet are:
The list is far longer than these humble examples, but they will help the reader to make an idea on the relationship between time+internet+language.
One popular term is ‘rickrolling’. BBC’s guest, Mr Poole (founder of anarchic image message board 4Chan) was asked to define the term which is known only by 4chan users. As Mr Poole said, “Rickroll is a meme or internet kind of trend that started on 4chan where users – it’s basically a bait and switch. Users link you to a video of Rick Astley performing Never Gonna Give You Up”. From now on, whenever you hear someone say ‘You’ve been rickrolled’ you know it means you’ve been trolled/tricked/fooled.
A ‘meme’? What is that? According to online definitions, it is ‘an image, video, etc. that is passed electronically from one internet user to another’.
Another popular website nowadays is 9gag.com. It can be said it is the second edition of 4chan. In what regards language, its users are doing their best to change it to their own preferences. Take this example:
1. Derp/derpina – terms used to define a male/female without revealing their identity.
2. Y U NO (do something) – Abbreviation of ‘Why don’t you (do something)?’
3. Brace yourselves – Commonly used with a picture showing a movie character, it is used to inform people to prepare for an upcoming online event. For example, the message ‘Brace yourselves, the Champions League posts are coming’ would be used to mock those who post things related to the Champions League
4. Captain Obvious – Appellation used to define a person who explains something which is obvious and doesn’t need any explanations. On 9gag.com the term is very often used in ‘Thank you, Mr Obvious’.
The most used and most common places where these ‘shortcuts’ tend to appear are on social websites and in e-mails’ bodies. However, these acronyms are considered to be the internet ‘slang’; therefore, they are not being used in official e-mails, their usage being restricted to conversations between friends alone.
For example, if I want to send an e-mail to one of my best friends, I don’t need an introductory line and I don’t even need to state who I am – I can simply get on to the topic.
But the moment I decide that I want to send an e-mail to a client/professor/stranger, there are some boundaries that I must respect.
One of the most popular English language tests in Europe, Cambridge ESOL, includes, in the writing part of their examination, the possibility to write an e-mail. The e-mail’s body is always almost identical with a letter’s, but there is one main difference which indicates whether we are talking about an e-mail or about a letter: this is the introductory formula ‘Dear Mr/Mrs’ (‘To whom it may concern’) for letters vs. ‘Hello, Mr/Mrs’ for e-mails.
There is also a striking difference between the language of the internet as most people know it and the language of the internet as the internet experts are using:
Used by most people
Used by those working in the field
|To google||Bounce Rate|
|Podcasting||Online brand building|
|Search Engine||SEO (Search Engine Optimization)|
|Spam/Spammy||Worm (a virus that doesn’t infect other programs)|
|Tag (to tag a photo on Facebook – say who is in it)||Tag (to tag an article on a blog – to specify which are the main keywords that article uses/is focused upon)|
|Web – acquired new meaning when speaking about the internet (see www)||Trojan Horse (‘A computer program is either hidden inside another program or that masquerades as something it is not in order to trick potential users into running it.’ Source)|
|Wi-Fi||URL (vs. website address)|
It goes without saying that the most popular search engine on the internet is Google. Besides Google, there are other search engines such as Yahoo, Ask, etc. What they all have in common is that they are robots programmed to function according to a specific algorithm which dictates the search results a person gets once they have introduced a word or a phrase in the search bar.
When someone searches for something on Google they usually make use of elliptic phrases; these are called ‘keywords’ or ‘key phrases’. For example, instead of searching ‘I would like to know how to write the best cover letter to send to my prospective client’, a person will focus on the key words of their search, meaning ‘best cover letter for client’.
Tips: Very often people do not find the results they were expecting only by using keywords. In order to make their search easier, the Google team has come up with some ‘shortcuts’:
The English language and language in general is often disregarded in favour of visuals; that is images and videos. Because of lack of time, people tend to prefer watching short videos or searching for powerful visual images to pass their time online. This is why websites such as 9gag, Pinterest, Flickr, Facebook, etc. are so popular among internet users.
These websites are called social media platforms and they are changing the way we perceive traditional written texts. Take Pinterest as an example. It is the epitome of visuals, yet text has found a way to interfere with images. By choosing the ‘Quotes’ category, a user will not be guided towards a book and not even an e-book, but rather nicely-designed quotes told by famous people or picked up from people’s favourite books. Like this:
I see the internet as a huge business which encompasses thousands of other various-size businesses. The good thing about the internet is that it has revolutionized the way we perceive things and the way we choose to digest news, information, culture.
Google is one of the biggest internet empires, along with Yahoo, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter and other, generally social media platforms.