Fluent in Teen – A Guide to Text Talk


I remember thinking my parents were so out of touch because they couldn’t work the VHS recorder back in the days when the biggest competition in tech talk was whether you had a VHS or a Betamax. My young self had no idea that real technology was waiting just around the corner in the form of mobile phones that didn’t need a suitcase and computers that didn’t take up a whole science lab at school but I still promised myself I would never be open to the ridicule my parents’ generation faced simply because they weren’t technically savvy. And then my teens started texting..! Most kids these days have a mobile phone and, for the most part, it’s the parents who buy them and pay for the line rentals etc. We want our kids to be safe and we want them to be contactable so we search the internet for the best deals and buy them a phone that won’t embarrass them too much in front of their friends. And if we have any sense at all we make sure their phone comes with a good texting package because, like it or not, teens text…a lot!

Now don’t get me wrong – like most people, I know the more generally used text slang (although I still maintain that lol, meaning laugh out loud really can’t be called loling for laughing out loud). However, while I understand most text talk (after all, it was my generation that started it) as with most things, this language has evolved over the years and some things have even got me stumped. Thank goodness for Google!

Modern shorthand

I actually understand the necessity for abbreviating sentences to send in a text – it makes it shorter and quicker and harder to understand, so it’s the perfect talk for hormonal, emotional, privacy-favouring teens. For example, “omg fyi my bff 4t it ws tmi lol” contains some of the most popular (in other words overused) acronyms in our kids’ dictionary of texts. Translated it reads “Oh my gosh/goodness/God, for your information my best friend forever thought it was too much information, laugh out loud.” But of course you knew that, right?

Fav txt 4u2kno

Teens hate (yes, hate) talking to parents and yet we need them to let us know where they are, if they’re going to be late home, if they need picking up and so on. The solution is obvious – learn to understand the texts they use – they’ll be much happier texting you a message that says “doing hw @ m8s, bbs, xoxo” rather than explaining in a call with all their friends listening in that they’re going to their friend’s house to do homework and will be home soon (hugs and kisses). With that in mind, here are some of the most commonly used words you really must know.

  • b4 – before
  • brb/bbs – be right back/be back soon
  • btw – by the way
  • bf/gf – boyfriend/girlfriend
  • cul8r – see you later
  • hw – homework
  • imo/imho – in my opinion/in my humble opinion
  • m8 – mate, l8 – late, h8 – hate, gr8 – great (you get the idea)
  • np – no problem
  • ttyl – talk to you later
  • vm – voice mail
  • xoxo – hugs and kisses

Parent beware

No-one says we need to know the meaning of every text abbreviation out there but there are certainly some that parents would do well to be aware of. For example, there are a range of codes to warn friends that you’re around. PAL (Parents Are Listening) PAW or PRW (Parents Are Watching) and PIR (Parents In Room) are just a few of many warning codes letting a friend know they can’t talk. Of course it is worthwhile remembering that not everything is a danger sign – they are teens after all and they want their privacy. Now remind me, who pays that phone bill…?

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