Microsoft has published a parent's guide to online slang, and we were unable to resist it. It aims to educate confused parents about the wacky online world their kids inhabit, so that mums and dads across America don't freak out when they spy on their offsprings' email, and can't understand a word of it.
The idea behind it is simple: parents are told all the time that to be safe, they should keep their PC in the main family room, they need to monitor their kids' use of the net, particularly chatrooms, or instant messager systems. But kids like their privacy, and will find ways to keep things from their parents.
The guide begins: "While it's important to respect your children's privacy, understanding what your teenager's online slang means and how to decipher it is important as you help guide their online experience."
We can interpret that as meaning that there is little point snooping on your kids unless you know what it is you are snooping on. But while we digress, the advice continues:
"While it has many nicknames," Microsoft continues, "information-age slang is commonly referred to as leetspeek, or leet for short."
It explains that the word leet is itself the vernacular form of "elite", and is a "specific type of computer slang where a user replaces regular letters with other keyboard characters to form words phonetically - creating the digital equivalent of pig Latin with a twist of hieroglyphics."
"Leet words can be expressed in hundreds of ways using different substitutions and combinations, but once one understands that nearly all characters are formed as phonemes and symbols, leetspeek isn't difficult to translate."
Don't you love the way its sounds like an academic analysis of Linear-B?
The page then goes on to demonstrate increasingly complex forms of this mysterious language, giving examples, such as w00t, d00d, and the almost incomprehensible "f0|\|371(" for phonetic.
The intention behind it may be good, and who can blame parents for wanting to make sure their kids are safe online? But the whole thing conjures up images of middle class parents trying to converse with their children in "leetspeak" over breakfast:
"So, I heard Mr. McKenzie really, erm, owned your last math class"
"The homework he sets really needs some, um, mad skills, to complete it?"
"Nevermind dear. Have a leet day."
Microsoft's parental primer is here