[ISN] What the heck is "leetspeek?"

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Mon Jan 13 2003 - 23:02:16 PST

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    Forwarded from: William Knowles <wkat_private>
    Dear Cecil:
    I have an Armchair University degree in English linguistics, and I was 
    thinking about the "l33t5p33k" we see on the Net these days, as well 
    as the Princification of the language, the replacement of "you" with 
    "u" and "to" with "2," etc. Is this just bad English, or is this the 
    next step? Will the English language in 100 years look like the 
    rantings of a 15-year-old hacker as we see it now, and will numbers 
    become letters (1 = I, 2 = to, 3 = E, 4 = for, 5 = S, etc)? 
    --Montfort, via the Straight Dope Message Board
    Cecil replies: 
    Let's put this in perspective, Montfort. Your columnist grew up in the 
    60s, which as everyone knows was the coolest era in the history of 
    existence. The collective output of the leading lights of that 
    time--your Stones, your Zep, etc--obliterated everything that had gone 
    before. Sure, your Andy Williams types were still putting out records, 
    and I guess somebody must have bought them (presumably the same people 
    who are presently packing the theaters in Branson, Missouri). But 
    everybody with a clue knew: Those guys were old. They were out of it. 
    They were lame.
    That said, I fully expected the next generation to come along with 
    some even more radical pop-cultural contribution that would leave us 
    60s burnouts in the dust. Didn't happen, at least not right away. 
    During the early 80s I was shocked to overhear a couple 17-year-olds 
    talking about going to a Grateful Dead concert. I wanted to say: You 
    twerps, your parents went to Grateful Dead concerts. You're supposed 
    to think the Grateful Dead suck. There's something terribly wrong with 
    a world in which kids think their elders' culture is hip.
    Eventually, thank God, there was rap. I was relieved to find that I 
    hated rap. There were times when it was all I could do to keep from 
    growling how can you kids listen to that noise? I tell you, it did my 
    heart good.
    Now comes 133t5p33k, proof that the flames of intergenerational 
    antagonism burn as brightly as ever. Used mainly by teenage chat-room 
    geeks, gamers, and wannabe h4x0r5 (hackers), 133t5p33k replaces 
    standard letterforms with others looking vaguely similar, e.g., 1 for 
    L, 3 for E, 5 for S, and so on (see www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leet for a 
    rundown). Thus 133t5p33k transliterates to "leetspeek." The 
    uninitiated will now ask: What's a leet? It's short for elite, j00 
    14m3r (j = Y, 4 = A). No one is sure where the name came from, but the 
    meaning is clear enough: Only the elite (i.e., your friends, who are 
    definitely not over 40) are supposed to understand it. Leet involves 
    multiple layers of coding, the better to trip up the unhip. Thus "you 
    are" becomes u r, "the" is purposely misspelled t3h (leetists have 
    adopted common typos as a point of pride), K3W1357 means 
    kewlest/coolest, w4r3z (wares) is slang for pirated software, and so 
    On the scale of linguistic complexity, basic leet is about on a par 
    with pig Latin, and with five minutes' practice just about anyone can 
    crank out elegant prose such as: y c@N'+ p30p13 R3kO9nIZ3 +eh 834UTy 
    uv 1337??? (Apologies to acconav of the Straight Dope Message Board, 
    from whom I lifted this example.) Recognizing this, some 1337!575 are 
    promoting "advanced" leetspeek, which they believe takes things to a 
    new level. Sample: 4|)V4|\|C3D l3e+$peA|< i$ whEn J00 +4lK L1K3 
    t|-|15. t0 u|\|d3r$+@|\|D jOo |\/|u5+ be lEET. 1f J00 4r3 NO+ lEe+ jOO 
    C@|\|N0T 5p3A|< 0r ReAd +|-|I5. Stumped? I wasn't either. But I bet a 
    lot of parental units are scratching their heads.
    At this point you may be thinking: This is |-|0r535|-|17. That's what 
    you're supposed to think, ancient one. Leet is for kids. The whole 
    point is to communicate only with the chosen few, and to frustrate 
    everybody else. That's why there's little danger of leet taking over 
    the English language, which by contrast is useful because it's so 
    widely understood. It's possible that bits of leet will migrate into 
    the mainstream; after all, one of the best-known expressions in 
    English, OK, entered the language during a leetlike fad for silly 
    initials that flourished in U.S. newspapers in the late 1830s (OK 
    stood for "oll korrect"). But so far I'm not seeing much mention of 
    d00dz in the New York Times.
    Leet is a game at which more than one generation can play, for better 
    or worse. In a recent discussion of leet on the SDMB, members amused 
    themselves with remarks such as: 1337533| 5 p07 \/\/310/\/\3 33 
    (Jeff Olsen). This inspired the snappy rejoinder 7|_| |)47, 5|_||<4 
    (mouthbreather), leading fallom, the 1337!57 who had started it all, 
    to concede, y0ur 1337 0wnz0r5 m1n3. 1 4dm17 d3f347 (the 0r5 is usually 
    ignored). But the most typographically impressive comment came from 
    eunoia:  ==7=@/ <= = @ 3@>= #=@@(c)#=. (Hints: = is E,  
    is I, > and < are both V.) A bit cranky, but anyone over 40 who's 
    gotten this far will no doubt agree. 
    Cecil Adams can deliver the Straight Dope on any topic. Write Cecil at 
    "Communications without intelligence is noise;  Intelligence
    without communications is irrelevant." Gen Alfred. M. Gray, USMC
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