Spim - New Form of Spam

Mon Feb 28 15:39:34 UTC 2005

        Spim dates back at least to an article by Eric Zorn in the Chicago Tribune on 8/5/1999:  <<The peddlers, pornographers, predators, publicists and other pests will also try to get in on the act.  We now call their e-mail "spam."  We'll call their instant messages "spIM.">>  This sounds as if he invented the term, but I'll bet there's earlier out there.

        Merriam-Webster, I see, has the related word "spam" back to 1994.  Google Groups has on 7/9/1987:  <<Our return addresses always get munged into something resembling Spam.>>  "Spam" is used as early as 8/8/1982, but most of these uses are in usernames or addresses, or are otherwise ambiguous.

        It seems that the meaning of "spam" was not immediately settled.  From a 6/1/1991 article in Compute, discussing online chat terms:  <<Spam: Information that might not be legitimate or real, as in This rumor may have a high Spam content.>>  The article has several other early uses, and I've reproduced it in full below my signature.

John Baker

COPYRIGHT 1991 Compute Publications International Ltd.

Saturday, June 1, 1991

Vol. 13, No. 6, ISSN: 0194-357X

Chat lines: learn the lingo. (electronic bulletin board jargon) (column)

Denny Atkin

You think you've finally mastered the operation of that intimidating metal, plastic, and silicon beast on your desk. In fact, you're confident enough using your personal software that you decide it's time to reach out and touch some other computers. After perusing the manuals, you log on to an online service for the first time. The chat line looks interesting, so you select it from the service's main menu.

Messages flow down your screen, but what are these people taking about? You try to follow the conversation, but it's filled with strange terms and indecipherable acronyms. Despite all your research and studying before you logged on, you don't seem to be able to speak the language.

The best way to approach anything with a computer is to read the manual. Most problems can be solved by a quick check of the documentation. However, you can't get a manual for your local BBS system. And the documentation provided by most online services is superficial at best. Even if the manual is thorough, it's not going to teach you online lingo.

Don't despair, though. Almost everyone online learned by trial and error. Just because you're a newbie doesn't mean everyone will be ROTFL if you flub a post. But to help you get started, here are some of the more common examples of online jargon and acronyms (STEVEX and the rest of the gang on People/Link helped fill in the gaps in my personal jargon dictionary).

Newbie: Someone new to a particular online service, BBS, or modeming in general. Newbies are often afraid to post anything publicly or ask for help, even though everyone else is usually happy to assist them.

Lurker: Someone who "lurks" on a BBS or online service without posting messages or uploading files. Actually, most users are lurkers--the vast majority of messages are posted by a few vociferous folks.

Emotions: These are ASCII graphic faces used to express emotions in online messages. There are probably hundreds of variations, but some of the most common include

:-) Smiley face, used to indicate laughter.

:-( Frowny face, used to indicate disappointment or anger.

:-) Winky face, used to indicate a joke.

:-/ Wry face, used when something's funny in a bad way.

B' Cool shades face, an example of one of many possible variations.

Post: Another word for an online message, as in Did you read Kim's post?

Nets: Networks, used to describe the commercial online services as well as Usenet and BBS networks like WWIV and FidoNet.

Lamer: Someone who only downloads files, never contributing new files to the BBS or service.

Those are just a few of the terms you'll encounter while reading the message bases. Things get really weird, though, when you enter one of the live online chat lines. Chat users have developed an elaborate shorthand system to keep typing to a minimum. Here are just some of the common abbreviations.

BCNU: Be seeing you. Used when you're about to leave a conference. It's considered rude to enter or exit a conference without saying hello or goodbye.

BRB: Be right back. If you're going to be walking away from your computer or temporarily leaving the conference, it's nice to let people know. (Also, AFK: Away from keyboard.)

BTW: By the way.

CU L8TR: See you later. <g>: Grin. Synonymous with :-).

GA: Go ahead. Used after typing a long series of lines to let people know that they can now talk without interrupting you.

LOL: Laughing out loud.

Nytol: Good night, all--not the insomnia remedy.

ReHi: A greeting used when someone leaves a conference and then comes back.

ROTFL: Rolling on the floor laughing. Used after something very funny is said. (Also, the shorter ROTF and OTF.)

RTFM: Read the freaking manual. Used when somebody asks a question that could have been easily answered by checking in the manual.

Spam: Information that might not be legitimate or real, as in This rumor may have a high Spam content.

TINAR: This is not a review. Used before a user-written review on BIX, where the users aren't allowed to post product reviews. Of course, almost everything prefaced by TINAR actually is a review.

TNX: Thanks.

TNX 1.0E6: Thanks a million.

TTYL: Talk (or Type) to you later.

There are lots of other terms and acronyms, some specific to particular online services, but this dictionary should be enough to get you started. BTW, you can contact me on GEnie and BIX as DENNYA, on CompuServe as 75500, 3602, and on People/Link as DENNY. BCNU on the nets.>>

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