The ‘net-language’

Anna Cichoblazinska

St Francis de Sales
St Francis de Sales (1567-1622), whose feast falls on 24 January, is the patron of journalists, writers and Catholic press. He studied theology, biblical sciences and law at the universities in Paris and Padua. At the age of 35 he became Bishop of Geneva. He was the author of numerous writings belonging to the French classics. He was known for his apostolic zeal, for using press, leaflets, called ‘volants’, in which he briefly explained the truths of the faith. He put them on walls and fences.

The language of the Internet can make those who do not know its rule giddy. The lack of knowledge of the cyberspace language means digital exclusion. This term was borrowed from the social sciences where social exclusion concerns people rejected by the society or those who have difficulties with assimilation.

Excluded from cyberspace

Digital exclusion causes that old people who do not use the Internet or those living in small towns and villages, where the Internet is still associated with high social position, are outside the ‘net-community. The exclusion of old people and those living in small towns testifies to the disability of these groups. Although there are more and more EU funded programmes aiming at lessening the digital exclusion (computer courses for old people, computers for schools in small towns and villages) the ability to use electronic mail, search machine, text editor does not suffice to be a digital user in the full meaning of the word. Being limited to this kind of ability is defined as digital illiteracy. This illiteracy affects those who use the Internet every day but they cannot understand fundamental information and commands they encounter while surfing the Net. Such illiterate people cannot set new email accounts or create their blogs. They cannot even fill in the seemingly banal blanks. Such phenomena in the cyberspace testify to cultural incompetence. And although the Social Diagnose 2007 shows that over half Polish households have computers and 37% have Internet access (in 2003 it was 17%), one should assume that digital illiteracy affects a considerable percentage of Web users. The rapid development of computerisation and the Internet access for our families make the problem of digital illiteracy very important to people in their 40s and 50s, who functioning in an increasingly virtual world, through their inability to use it fully, are bound to marginalisation. Shopping, paying bills, contact with institutions and settling various matters through the Internet is not science fiction. This virtual civilisation is knocking at our doors.

Cultural competence

The ability to use the Internet is one of the fundamental cultural competences. The Internet, fulfilling three fundamental tasks: information, communication and entertainment, has become the medium without which contemporary people cannot do. It is easy to guess which virtual group a given user belongs to. In Poland the first criterion of division is the knowledge of foreign languages. Those who know foreign language browse international portals. But it should be stressed that in Poland the first social division exists on the level of the Internet access. The second division is the age category. The gymnasium pupils use the service ‘mojageneracja [my generation], grammar school pupils use ‘grono’ [circle], students use ‘nasza klasa’, and the employed use ‘’. It is worth observing social differences in blogs. The language used in blogs in the onet portal has a different social quality than the language in ‘bloxie.’ One can see a similar phenomenon using emails. It matters which server you use for your electronic mails. The server of a prestigious university strengthens our credibility and makes communication easier. It is worth dealing with the term ‘nick’ in the cyberspace. You can guess the reaction of the employer who reads the CV sent from ‘rysiunio’ [Polish diminutive of Richard]. You can notice cultural incompetence in the forums where the internauts express their opinions on subjects they know little about or discuss problems using domineering language, using arguments ad personam. The users call this way ‘trolling’ and the person ‘a troll’ and ‘do not feed the troll’, meaning ‘do not talk, do not comment, ignore him or her’ to eliminate or marginalize the troublesome discussant.

Etiquette in the net

The Virtual communities have created many norms and ways of social control, i.e. ways of dealing with tiring Internet users and the specificity of this medium. The cultural basis for every Web user is netiquette, i.e. a kind of decalogue of good manners in the Net. The netiquette is not exactly codified. However, its constant violating has unpleasant consequences, e.g. switching off the nasty user. The netiquette forbids sending spam (undesired news or links), flooding, i.e. sending the same information over and over again and it commands to use emoticons with moderation (they should be additions to the text and not its content). I have already mentioned the excessive trolling.

Internauts’ code

The Internet as a tool has created its own code consisting of language signs, pictures and sounds. Anyone that wants to be part of the Virtual Communities must get to know them. English is the basis language of internauts. Any attempt to translate the terms in Polish is bound to fail (e.g. click as ‘tupnac’ or ‘mlasnac’). The limitations due to the size of the monitor cause that the Internet cannot take long texts. The Internet is for concrete information, written in brief language. It concerns portals and electronic mail, not mentioning the chat room where quick, brief and accurate responses are welcomed. The limitations of the Internet made the internauts create a language of schemes, abbreviations and pictures to make their communication easier. The language is vivid and developing. To get to know it means to join the club called Virtual Community...

Characteristic elements of the Virtual Communities’ language:

1. Abbreviations:
wporzo - w porzadku [all right]
cze - czesc [hello]
nara - na razie [so long]
net - internet [the Internet]

2. Using digits:
3 majcie sie - trzymajcie sie [take care]
o2ga - odwaga [courage]

3. Using acronyms, words formed form the initial letters; these are most often English expressions:
CU - (See You) - do zobaczenia
N/P (No Problem) - zaden problem
BB - Bye-Bye - do widzenia
DND - Do Not Disturb - nie przeszkadzac
FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions - najczesciej zadawane pytania
IMHO - In My Honest Opinion - moim skromnym zdaniem
IMO - In My Opinion - moim zdaniem
PLZ - Please - prosze
R U M/F (Are You Male/Female) - czy jestes mezczyzna/kobieta

4. Acronyms containing Internet communicators:
IRC - Internet Relay Chat
ICQ - I Seek You
AOL - America Online
GG - Gadu-Gadu

5. Emoticons are signs expressing our emotions. They are also called smileys, trailers, these are signs made of letters, digits, punctuation signs. When viewed at a 90-degree angle they form icons:
:-) smile
;-) squick
:-( sadness
:-{) has a moustache

Internet Glossary:
nick - the name we choose
trolling for fish - a method of fishing, taking up a controversial theme to
start an argument
ape - synonym, ‘on the server’
legal - legally download
wolapik - new language
netiquette - rules to follow in the Net

"Niedziela" 3/2008

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: