JUST BETWEEN YOU AND ME: PRIVATE LANGUAGE IN E-MAIL

by John Suler, Ph.D.

Like any subculture, the world of e-mailing has developed a unique language. Having its own novel terms and expressions that outsiders don't understand gives any group a sense of distinctive identity. To be in the group is to be in the know. If you appropriately use the parlance, you are demonstrating your knowledge of and belonging to the subculture. The unique language also evolves for purely practical reasons. It makes communication more efficient. In the world of avid e-mail users, a variety of acronyms and abbreviations have developed. Many of these were borrowed from chat lingo. For example:

 

imho = in my humble opinion
btw = by the way
jk = just kidding
ppl = people
irl = in real life
fyi = for your information
brb = be right back
afk = away from keyboard

A private language also may develop between two people or among a small group of people who e-mail each other frequently. It may include unique acronyms, expressions, character symbols and words (neologisms) that only those people understand. The evolution of that private language reflects the evolving identity, cohesion, and intimacy of the dyad or group. Usually the language crystallizes around issues that are discussed frequently and therefore personally important to the e-mail partners.

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John Suler, PhD, is Professor of Psychology at Rider University and a practicing clinical psychologist. He has published on psychotherapy, mental imagery, and eastern philosophy. He currently maintains several web sites.

 

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