University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine
Culture & Society

OMG I Luv IM

Teens use a lot of instant messaging terms, but not in spoken conversation, study finds

Is the rise in popularity of instant messaging sounding the death knell of the English language, or adding to its rich slang? News stories take both sides, with the worriers complaining that terms such as lol (“laughing out loud”) and btw (“by the way”) are so common they’re finding their way into teen speech and more formal writing and “bastardizing” the language.

Nonsense, says U of T linguistics professor Sali Tagliamonte. In a recent study of instant-messaging (IM) conversations of 50 Canadian teenagers – which total more than a million words – Tagliamonte found the frequency of IM terms to be far lower than the media hype would suggest. As the chart shows, even lol, one of the most common IM terms, appears only 195 times out of 100,000, or about 0.2 per cent of the time. It seems English purists can rest easy – for now.

IM term
English
Frequency of IM term per 100,000 words
lol
laughing out loud
195
omg
oh my god!
107
brb
be right back
31
ttyl
talk to you later
30
btw
by the way
22
nvm
nevermind
7
gtg
gotta go
5
np
no problem
4
nm
not much
3
lmao
laughing my ass off
2

Recent Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. One Response to “ OMG I Luv IM ”

  2. Tom Stobie (SMC '72) says:

    How about "cu tmro" (see you tomorrow), which I, a septuagenarian, have frequently used since contracting the contagion from my grandchildren, or the death of the apostrophe? Also noteworthy is the inability of my descendants to read anything beyond the first sentence of a text message, or the ultimate eye-roller: a three paragraph text from one of my siblings or other contemporaries?