February 12, 2001-- Newsletter #117

By Joe Burns

Goodies to Go (tm)
February 12, 2001--Newsletter #117

This newsletter is part of the internet.com network.

Please visit http://www.htmlgoodies.com

Greetings, Weekend Silicon Warriors,

Did you hear...

The FTC is becoming pro-active. The latest report is that the U.S. governmental agency found 200 firms, 175 on the Internet, that have offered to collect data and sell to third party sources. That's illegal. The FTC calls their efforts "Operation Detect Pretext". Look for action to be taken soon.

EBay is cracking down on people sending SPAM to bidders. I've received a few letters this way. Right now, any registered user can get the email address of just about any other person on the eBay system. The company plans to put a stop to the practice by hiding their user's addresses. Email will be forwarded by the eBay servers while keeping the user's actual email address a secret.

Another dot-com is about to go under completely. Greenlight.com will soon be gobbled up by CarsDirect.com. All remaining 75 Greenlight employees will be out of a job.

Even military camouflage is going digital. Soon, military personal will be wearing camouflage that is made of up pixels. Up close it's a grainy look, but from a distance, it's said the suits blend into the scenery much faster. The new designs will be tested at bases in Japan and California. It is expected to become general issue by the summer.

Now onto today's topic...

k4|\| '/0u |234d 7|-|15?
1F |\|07, 7|-|3|\| '/0u d0|\|'7 u|\|d3|2574|\|d 133t.

The lines above are not just gibberish. It's a new, and really fun, method of writing text on the Web. It's called "l33t". If you can read and write l33t, then you're a good "cyber freak". You also play computer games. That's where the majority of the formatting rules grew from, those who play games communicating with one another.

The text above reads:

"Can you read this? If not, then you don't understand l33t."

The new format is actually pretty clever, and contrary to what you might think has grown into a rather well constructed group of rules.

The overall concept is to find interesting methods of using differing ASCII characters to represent the more common letters. The decisions regarding which letters and/or symbols to use are decided both by letter structure and phonetic pronunciation. Let's look at just the first word:


That's the word "can". It's fairly easy to pick out that the "C" was replaced by a "K" because of phonetic equality. The "A" is replaced by the number four due to similar structure. The "N" is replaced by an equal structure formed out of three other ASCII characters.

I don't know about you, but I think it's clever. I can't imagine ever writing like this all the time, but for a short mental get-away, I'm enjoying the time I'm spending attempting to understand it.

Here are the basic rules:

The vowels "A" "E" "I" and "O" are substituted using the numbers 4, 3, 1, and 0.

The letter "G" is replaced with the number 9.

As with any language, there are characters, or sounds, that have more than one substitution. For example, the letter "T" is most commonly seen as a 7, but many also use "+".

So, using just those rules, we would write the sentence, "We all must go" this way:

W3 411 mu5+ 90

As I said above, not only are characters replaced due to physical appearance, but also due to phonetic pronunciation. We saw above that the "K" sound is always written with a "K" simply because of the sound even if the correct English spelling is with a "C".

The most common example of a sound being more important than the correct letter(s) is the word "fat".

In the world of l33t, to call a fellow cyber freak "fat" is the highest compliment. The thing is, "fat" does not mean overweight. The term came from rap music. There, the term was spelled "phat". That's another example of changing the characters in order to equal the sound.

In l33t, "phat" has a few different spellings. Following the rules of l33t, I can come up with four different spellings that all equal the same word:

...and the most common "ph@"

Yes, you can jumble the letters around and come up with a few more, but I felt these four were truly different without a simple jumbling. Each uses a new character.

Notice the @ insignia is used as it is to be pronounced. There's another character that is used in the same manner, "#". You use that pound sign when you want to represent the sound "ash". The word "crash" would be written "cr#". The example I found most interesting was the word "backslash". In true l33t that word is written:


Notice the number 8 being used for the letter "B".

At this point, you can speak basic l33t. However, there are some quite advanced word constructions that require you to really be an expert in this format. Those who can follow even the most complicated l33t are called, "3l33t". Pronounce that "elite".

Those who write in 3l33t have actually broken l33t into dialects. The dialects often represent differing groups of people separated by their interest in one computer game or another. Furthermore, they make a concerted effort to use as few true characters as possible. If it can be done, every single letter is replaced with a new character or series of characters.

Here are a few I found interesting. A couple you've already seen:

H = |-|
K = |<
L = |_
M = ^^
N = |\|
R = |2
V = \/
W = \/\/
Y = '/

If it's all way too confusing for you, a cyber freak named Rio has offered a very well written site regarding the new "language". In addition, there is actually a l33t translation script. You put in English and it spits out l33t.

You'll find it at: http://www.planetquake.com/turkey/l33translate.htm

I doubt many of you will enjoy this past the end of the newsletter. It's fun just to enjoy it for what it is. However, there are people in my field, Communications, that will love this and study it to the Nth degree.

Languages evolve and often the goofy words and sentence structures you hear your kids using are not just what are considered "poor" English mistakes. It's often a dialect that has a serious set of rules. Just as using a plural noun with a singular verb can get stares in your English class, using "incorrect" structure in l33t can get you the same wondering glances online.


7|-|47'5 7|-|47. 7|-|4|\||<5 F0|2 |234d1|\|9 1 |23411'/ 4pp|2351473 17.

(That's that. Thanks for reading. I really appreciate it.)

Joe Burns, Ph.D.

And remember: Statistically speaking (based upon historical records), it is ten times easier to hit a hole in one than to bowl a 300 game. The odds for each generally round out to 300,000 to 1 vs. 30,000 to 1.

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