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August 27, 2007

Will L33t, LoLcats Be the Next Company and Brand Naming Trends?

The Wall Street Journal has been tracking the evolution of Leetspeak, a subject I have blogged about before and remain very interested in.

leetspeak.gifThe Internet is radically affecting our language, and leetspeak (or l33t 5p34k) is adding new words to our lexicon daily.

The word of the day? Pwn, as in "I pwn you," or "I own you" or "I have beaten you." Pwn is an easy typo from "own" but has taken a life of its own, as has teh, a typo for "the."

Even letters have a myriad of representations: The Wall Street Journal points out that the letter A can be "leeted" into "4, /\, @ , /-\, ^, and aye," while "lol" the old standby for "laugh out loud" is turning into "lawl."

Now, Jarret Cale has an Internet video series called "Pure Pwnage" (how's THAT for insider product naming?). And we can even view l33t cartoons.

I keep tabs on this because sooner or later these types of language changes seep into product naming and brand naming. It's one of the funnier parts of being a naming consultant. Linguists may be cringing but at least one academic says that Shakespeare would be all over this.

But just as I was congratulating myself for being so up to date on my l33t, I was exposed to LOLcats, the new, new Internet fad.

cheezburger.gifJust as l33t is seeping into brand naming, knowledge of LoLcats is becoming a requirement for people trapped behind a computer all day (that's all of us). The mother site of this trend is I Can has a Cheezburger? and explains the use of an "image macro."

The brilliance of the humor is its simplicity: a digital picture of a cat and some garbled cat language on top. The site gets over 500 submissions a day. Now, "LOL" is almost regular talk. But tracking the strange language of LOLcats is the real challenge, not to mention the sub genre featuring walruses called lolrus and another unnamed genre featuring elephants.

You might want to take the test "Which Lolcat are you?" before you read on...

One essay on the subject of this language, entitled Cats Can Has Grammar, has been read over a million times and introduces us to the term "kitty pidgin" and the fact that it's possible to get cat-speak wrong (the cartoon on the essay, with the gag line "I has idiosyncratic conjugation," is priceless).

If you want to really get into it, take a look at the post by David McRaney on Zero Sum Mind entitled "1337 Katz0rz." You'll figure it out.

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Posted by William Lozito at August 27, 2007 9:53 AM
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My trackback attempts yield "403: Throttled" so I hope you don't mind a comment instead (even though I'm a few days late).

I like how you tied the WSJ article to your blog topic, so I linked your post in a roundup post: I Can Has Cheezburger makes the WSJ.

I hope we don't see a rash of lolnames!

I think that the whole job of product naming has a tremendous rash of lolnames!

good call on trending in the internet
we are doing some of the satire on
politicians here at

come see if you like us.


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