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Friday, March 06, 2009

Undercover Mom in ClubPenguin, Part 3: Anybody here speak English?!

By Sharon Duke Estroff

I’m beginning to understand why kids are so obsessed with Club Penguin. It’s a posh ski vacation via DSL connection. There’s snow tubing, ski lifts, and an ice hockey rink; a coffee shop, pizza joint, and discothèque; even a beach complete with surfboards, sun umbrellas and an outdoor fire pit (photo links below). And they’re all packed like sardines with friend-seeking penguins (upwards of 20 million of them, estimates UK-based virtual-worlds research firm K Zero). I feel so hip, so happening, so popular!

Next day: Not feeling quite so hip and popular today. Mainly because all my would-be penguin pals seem to be speaking a foreign language. Sure I recognize a few words, like “hi” and “igloo.” I’m even holding my own at deciphering the horrific misspellings (sorry, it’s the teacher in me). But ROTFL? NVM? What is this, penguinese?

Following some snooping around the Internet for an English-Penguinese translation guide, I’ve surmised that the mysterious lexicon is actually a series of cryptic acronyms and shorthand that kids use to communicate online. More Pig Latin than Greek, you might say. "ROTFL" is “rolling on the floor laughing” and "NVM" is “never mind.” Kids also use “emoticons” (e.g., the smiley face) to communicate their moods of the moment.

Mom Break: From a parental supervision standpoint, this is not good news. Not only are our kids hanging out in a parallel universe, they’re speaking in alien tongues while they’re at it. This generational fluency gap is bound to result in millions of parents not understanding what their kids and their friends are discussing. Worse yet, not every cyber-acronym is innocuous (i.e. "PRW," or "Parents Are Watching"). Granted, the Disney Company - which acquired Club Penguin in 2007 in a 700 million dollar deal - has filters in place to prevent shady shorthand from infiltrating the conversational landscape. But the reality remains that staying a cyberstep ahead of the Net generation can be tough - even for Mickey Mouse. I found one clever penguin inserting an extra letter in order to use language that's not allowed in Club Penguin: He asked someone, "Are you gay?"

Next week: "Cold Shoulders." Here are my intro to Undercover Mom and Part 1 and Part 2 of Sharon's series.

Undercover Mom's screenshots [Anne here: Sorry I can't embed them in this blog at the moment!]

  • ChillyLily437 on the Beach
  • Downtown Club Penguin
  • Penguinese spoken here
  • Textual workaround

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    Anonymous Kelly Czarnecki said...

    Speaking in alien tongues? I'm a little perplexed. I am an adult that works with teens and kids and many of those acronyms are very familiar to me. While I know they are unfamiliar to many people there are a lot of resources online that will 'translate'. I think the bigger issue is talking to the kids/teens if someone is unsure what an acronym means. That's how I found out a lot of answers. Teens, Technology, and Literacy or Why Bad Grammar Isn't Always Bad by Linda Braun is a great book that address issues such as IM speak.

    10:19 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Hay I quit frankly think that a little offensive we where all teens once its a kewl place and PRW ya so what you dont need to watch your kids all the time let em have a lile= fun once in a while OMG is you recogniz that its just shotening up the typuing git with the program!!!!!!!

    11:31 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    and the defense rests.

    8:51 PM  

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