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We’re creating our own language here at Penn State.

Then again, people in groups together for any significant period of time do. Does anybody outside of Penn State understand the significance of “BS Breakfast”? Probably not: they’d take it for what it sounds like. Which was, of course, the intent. (BS here stands for “brainstorming,” for those not in the know.)

“Language” may be an overstatement, but it’s at least a code. You’re “in” if you know what we’re talking about.

I’m part of a lot of these communities with their own codes: Penn State TLT groupie (joke!) is just one of them. And acronyms are just part of these codes.

One community with a ton of community-made acronyms that I’m part of is BPAL enthusiasts (keep in mind, with the following links, that their aesthetic is quite dark–don’t be shocked). Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab (BPAL) is a Los Angeles-based outfit that creates perfume oils, and it has its own parlance. GC (general catalog), LE (limited edition), CD (Carnaval Diabolique) and the like are pretty common to see in discussions on the topic, as is BPTP (Black Phoenix Trading Post, their sister company, which produces all their non-perfumel goods).

Other communities of a sort are more based on quotes or references. The video Shannon posted yesterday contains a bunch of these. Whether or not you notice them depends on where you spend your time online. One of the first clips is a re-creation of the Numa Numa guy.   There’s also “first!” (warning: expletives, immaturity), commonly seen in comments. See also: Internet Commenter Business Meeting (same warning applies, only way more so. plus offensiveness. plus . . . oh, nevermind–it’s from College Humor, so you should expect as much), which is basically what would happen if a meeting was run like virtually any popular open forum online.

And, of course, if you haven’t yet been hit by a Rick Roll, you haven’t been online long enough, and you certainly haven’t been taking a look all the way through my links. But that may be just as well, really.

Internet Memes (warning: too many warnings than I can list) attempts to collate all these references. It doesn’t hit all of them, but it hits the highlights quite well.

And there’s certainly some mocking of that communal language of references. An editorial in the New York Times today, Lord of the Memes, tells us that to be on the cutting edge, we need to be “not only an early adopter, but an early discarder.” We should go through these products, services and references before anyone else and then get sick of them and dismiss them with disdain should anyone else bring them up. The article ends with “remember, cultural epochs come and go, but one-upsmanship is forever.”

I didn’t discover that editorial on my own. In a rare reverse-crossover reference–real life to online rather than the other way around–someone told me about it at lunch and I looked at it on my iPhone when the conversation waned. There’s some irony there, believe me.

But this is connectivity. Or the cost of connectivity. Or the advantage of connectivity.

The point is, that too is part of your cultural education. So choose your influences wisely–they will become your references, and part of your language. Maybe I should be a bit more selective in mine. 😉


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