'Bilingual' teens say CUL8R to English

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The Independent Online

British teenagers have become bilingual, communicating in an online language that at first sight looks to most adults like an unbreakable code.

The online community Habbo Hotel, whose users are mostly aged between 12 and 16, has published a glossary of the punctuation symbols, abbreviations and "emoticons" that young people send to one another.

Teenagers combine symbols, letters and numbers to keep in touch with their friends via e-mail, instant messaging and mobile phones. These range from (()):** meaning "hugs and kisses", to P999, or "parent alert", and LMAO BBS - "laughing my arse off and will be back soon".

Some terms are relatively obvious, such as Gr8 for "great", others require more deciphering, such as YTTT for "You telling the truth?" N00B for "new user" and IRL for "In real life".

Online language began to evolve in the late 1990s, when words such as "see" and "be" were reduced to the phonetic consonants, so that "See you later" became CUL8R.

Many services aimed at teenagers also feature "emoticons", pictorial symbols - such as love hearts, thumbs up and mobile phones - to help them to express their feelings.