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Monday, August 9 12:00 AM ET

Language Differences Confuse Internet Communications

By Brian Briggs

New York - A Columbia University study outlined the regional language differences for Internet chat acronyms around the United States.

"Just like people call soda pop, pop or soda or coke, these same differences exist for chat acronyms," said Professor of Linguistics Edward Etym. "Say LOL to a friend in Wisconsin and they'll think you mean Land O' Lakes, while someone in Alabama will think you mean 'Love Our Lord'. OMG may translate to "Oh My God" where you live, but to somebody from Dallas it means "On My Gun."

Often these differences are inconsequential, but sometimes they can lead to embarrassing situations. Like what happened to Tom Chang from Albany, New York, "My boss at headquarters said something funny in a chat session and I typed 'LMAO' for 'laughing my ass off', but apparently in Las Vegas that means 'Let's Make An O-face'. I got fired for that."

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Etym hopes the study shows the need for a national acronym standards body, so kids all over the country can communicate without confusion.

The language differences are not limited to chat acronyms, but also when referring to the Internet itself. Jennifer Gupta, 13, of Los Angeles, California said, "My cousin from Mississippi came up to stay with us and asked if we had the 'magic wire.' I had no idea what she was talking about. Finally, after using some sign language and a sketch pad, I realized she was asking if we had the Enterweb."

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