Numbers (and symbols) as word shortcuts in other languages

When I first got my phone I remember starting to use “text speak”, or rather “txt speak”. This refers to the shortening of words to save on precious characters so you could say as much as you wanted to in 160 characters before being charged double for sending two messages. This usually involved substituting numbers for word segments, which are called shortcut words (like 4ever – forever, 2day – today, gr8 – great etc), or making acronyms (lol, omg, brb) or just simply removing the vowels (ths s hrd t rd).

Image showing numberplate reading "lolzomg"

Shortcut words are interesting, because they require you to read letters, and then translate numbers in the the sound they make, which is a different process. Shortcut words are different to simply r3plac1ng l2tt2r5 w1th num83r5 in this way. There you were just treating each digit as the letter it looks like, whereas with shortcut words you’re required to think of them as a number, thus switching between reading letters and digits.

Any way, txt speak is still used today, despite the fact that we can send endless messages on devices for free and I haven’t really given it a second thought…UNTIL NOW.

I was browsing facebook and noticed that a German friend of mine was presenting in Berlin at the “Lange nacht der museen” or “Long night a the museum”, a fantastic and fun event where the museums stay open all night and you race around the city trying to see as much as you can*. On the poster for the event, the title was written as “Lange n8 der museen”.

N8!! Now my first thought when seeing that was “nate”. But in German, 8 is pronounced “acht”, so when read aloud, that letter/digit combination made “nacht”, the German word for night. Incredible. I’d never before considered that there would be shortcut words in languages other than english, but of course there were!

Cue a twitter investigation, here are some more examples of shortcut words using numbers (and symbols, because I don’t want to discriminate) in languages other than English.

German

n8 – nACHT – “night”

French

k7 – kaSEPTE (kassette) – “cassette” as is “get Now 38 on CD and cassette!”

a+ – a PLUS – “see you”. The friend that told me this one moved to Belgium from the UK, she said for a while she thought her texts were getting graded.

9 – NEUF (neuve) – “new”

Spanish

enreda2 -> enredaDOS -> “tangled”. This is just one example, many words ending in “-dos” can use this shortcut

Italian

c6 -> ciSEI -> “are you there?”

6 3mendo -> SEI – TRESmendo -> “you are terrible”

qualc1 -> qualcUNO -> “someone”

nes1 -> nessUNO -> “no one”

Polish

3maj się -> TRZYmaj się -> “see you”

 

Those are all the ones I managed to collect so far. But this will be an eternal quest for me now. Let me know if you know of any other ones. And thank you to everyone who provided these examples.

(As one final thought, this investigation has led me to this paper, which looks at whether or not numbers used in shortcut words still activate numerical cues, or whether that is supressed because they take on a word form. The paper is available here and is very interesting!)

 

*A few years ago this ended up with me and my sister stood in the Bauhaus museum at 2am trying to discuss architecture. She was far better at this than I was.

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