People From the 1800’s Used Textspeak Too… As A Joke
If you’ve got a cell phone and at least one friend with same, chances are you’ve run into the phenomenon known as textspeak. Phrases such as “I’ll see you before tomorrow” can be shortened to “C U B4 tmw” or similar, mainly to overcome the traditional 160-character limit of SMS, or simply to speed up the otherwise arduous task of typing words into a tiny, poorly laid out phone keypad. If you were to ask the average person when this trend started, many would probably say the late ’90s or ’00s. But as Guardian.co.uk points out, those people would be wrong.
According to a new exhibition at the British Library, authors as far back as the 19th century were replacing words with individual letters or numbers. They called the genre “emblematic poetry,” and it was considered a sort of literary game. The example in the image above is taken from an 1867 poem by Charles C. Bombaugh, “Essay to Miss Catherine Jay.” And hell if I know what the third line is supposed to mean.
In a similar vein, some literary sadists have taken it upon themselves to translate Robert Browning‘s “My Last Duchess” into full textspeak. Although I would argue that real textspeak doesn’t have nearly as many capital letters and symbols. Seriously, do you have any idea how difficult it is to type a caret in T9?