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Does IM Make U Dum?

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B4 the Net, it wuz unheard of 2 use shorthand like this, unless U were writing a classified ad.

As you can see, I'm not very good at these abbreviations, probably "coz" in Internet years, I'm about 287 years old. It's a miracle my gnarled hands can type at all.

My own decrepitude aside, kids and hipsters everywhere regularly insert abbreviations, acronyms, and other Internetisms into their writing--even when they're offline.

Does this mean our language is going to LOL all the way to its doom? Does it mean that instant message (oops, I mean IM) abbreviators are dopes? Or are folks like me the real dummies because we can't bring ourselves to type "coz," except as a joke?

I know the answer, and it's not what you might think.

The best way to understand it is to imagine a guy wearing a very small, tight swimsuit. I know. Close your eyes and do it anyway. Now that you're thinking of that suit and its wearer, imagine a place where that person is standing.

If your swimsuit guy is standing in, say, a shopping center, then it's probably not too hard to imagine the next people entering the landscape of your imagination are police officers, ready to arrest him for indecent exposure.

But if your swimsuit guy is standing alongside an Olympic-size swimming pool, waiting for his event to begin, then you've imagined a context where the image fits right in. No one looks at a competitive swimmer in his little swimsuit and says, "Hey buddy, put some pants on!"

So the key with Internetisms is to know when it's okay to use them, when it's not okay, and when not using them will make you look clueless.

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