WOW Socialect: A Logographical Study
Note: I originally wrote the following essay as a study for a course in college, History and Development of the English Language (HEL). I really enjoyed being in HEL. Anyway, I didn’t update the information in the essay before posting it today, so feel free to add commentary if anything I have said is outdated. I based my research on my own experiences within the game, so if your experiences are different, feel free to share your own observations. And if you hate the game or disagree with me, feel free to make those comments too. The lyrical snippet this time is from a song called, “World of Warcraft Ruined My Life” by a group called ALL CAPS. Their music vid is on the linked page.
|Ysiel, Draenei Death Knight, after getting hit with Mowhawk Grenade.|
Role playing games, or RPGs, have been around for years, but the advent of the internet created a whole new world for gamers (players of RPGs). One massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) that has become very popular in recent years is World of Warcraft, known as wow to those who play it. Since the word “wow” is also used for an expression of amazement or shock, this could confuse those not familiar with the wow socialect. Because there are usually so many people playing MMORPGs, it is necessary for different computer servers to run a game for smaller groups of people. In wow, the servers are called realms. The people one would encounter in wow are from all walks of life. The age range is from children to the elderly; both males and females play; all ethnicities are represented. The reason that so many people from so many different backgrounds can play the game and generally get along, is that wow—like all RPGs—allows people to create an alternate identity for themselves, and to interact with other such created persons in a fantasy world where anything goes, and no one can truly judge.
In MMORPGs, the socialects of various classically text based RPGs have integrated with the socialect of the internet at large. The socialect of wow, therefore, has an interesting blend of the aforementioned internet and RPG socialects as well as a new lexicon that only makes sense to people familiar with wow. It is interesting to note that some of the words once used in classic text based RPGs are now used in wow, though their meanings have somewhat changed. An example of this would be the word roll. In classic text based RPGs, to roll means to literally roll a set of dice. In wow, people will say that they are going to roll a character, meaning that they are going to create a character—there are no dice involved. The meaning from the text based RPGs is, however, not lost entirely; when players are in a group and a rare item is available for looting from the corpse of an enemy or from a treasure chest, the group members will roll dice programmed into the game that randomly decide which player wins the item.
Another interesting aspect of the wow socialect is that spelling, capitalization and punctuation are relatively optional. There are a few gamers who will comment on non-standard spellings, but generally speaking gamers spell words however they would in their real lives. Some widely accepted alternative spellings include the letters s and z being interchangeable, and the occasional removal of a repeated letter in a word or of vowels whose sound would still be understood even in their absence, thus a word such as apples might be spelled as aplz. Some words created through alternative spellings are: pwn (own), corspe (corpse), stanima (stamina), and teh (the).
Shortening existing words and phrases is another way that words have become part of the wow lexicon. Words are sometimes spelled phonetically to shorten them; the word your would become ur, for example. This is not unique to wow, but is common throughout the internet world. There are also many words created by aphesis and apocopation. An example of this is the word alt, which means the player’s other characters, but is actually a shortened form of the word alternate. Another example is the word aggro, which is when a player is near an enemy, and the enemy attacks them. It is actually a shortened form of the word aggressive, though it obviously does not mean quite the same thing. Other words created through shortening include mats (materials), res (resurrection), log (log off/out), newb/noob/newbie/noobie (new or beginning player or toon), hearth (short for hearthstone, but means to leave), and main (main/favorite character).
Acronyms are the ultimate form of shortening, and are very common in the internet, and especially common in wow. As mentioned earlier, this can sometimes lead to confused. For example, the word ah has two meanings, the first is an expression of agreement or understanding, and the second is an acronym for auction house, a place where players can go to sell items in the game. From acronyms, some of the words added to the lexicon are npc (non-playable character), pve (player versus enemy), pvp (player versus player), xp (experience points), rotflmao (rolling on the floor laughing my ass off), lmao (laughing my ass off), rotfl/rofl (rolling on the floor laughing), and dps (damage per second).
There are also many words that pertain to the creation of a character. In wow, a character is called a toon. The idea in wow is that each toon is part of a group of kingdoms at war with another group of kingdoms. When creating a toon, gamers must choose which faction (side) they wish to belong to. The two factions are alliance/ally and horde/hordie. A toon can be one of five different races (species) depending on which faction they belong to. On the ally side, the races are draenei, dwarf, gnome/gnomey, human, and night elf. On the hordie side, the races are blood elf, orc, tauren, troll, and undead. Each toon also belongs to a certain class. This determines the way the toon fights. The classes are druid, hunter, mage, paladin/pally, priest, rogue, shaman/shammy, warrior/war, and warlock/lock. Not every race can be every class. In addition to races and classes, every toon has professions (jobs and/or abilities). There are primary and secondary professions. The primaries are alchemy, blacksmithing, engineering, leatherworking, tailoring, jewelcrafting, herbalism, mining, skinning, and enchanting. The secondaries are fishing, riding, first aid, and cooking.
Some other words one might encounter in wow include: twink (make really good or make much better, monster (enemy npc), quest (mission), party (group of two to five players), raid (group of more than five players), instance/dungeon, run (to go through or to make it through), tank (first one into a fight), mob (group of enemy monsters or group of enemy toons), grind (to kill monsters over and over to gain xp), camp (to stand near an enemy’s corpse until they res), and spawn/respawn (to come back to life; in reference to monsters, treasure, and quest items).
When players kill monsters, complete quests, open treasure chests, trade with other players, or purchase things on auction, they get a message on their computer screen that says, “You received loot:” with the name of the item next to it. So in game, loot is not just a verb meaning to steal, but is also a noun meaning any item that a player receives. There are different kids of loot: epic/purple/purp (extremely rare and/or really nice), blue (somewhat rare and/or nice), green (not all that rare but really nice), white (common but useful), grey (too common and not worth much). These words are both nouns and adjectives. A player can say, “Check out this purple sword!” or “Look at this purp I looted!” and both would be correct.
According to the pretext of the game, each race actually speaks its own separate language, and then within each faction there is a common language that everyone in that faction would understand. When an ally toon speaks to a hordie toon or vice versa, the other toon would not understand anything that is said. The game is designed to actually translate anything a gamer types into the language of their toon’s race when talking to a toon of the opposite faction. It would probably take years for a gamer to actually learn the languages of the different races, but one funny and interesting word is the orcish “kek” which is actually a translation of the internet acronym “lol,” or laugh out loud.
In wow, there is not that much attention paid to how words should be pronounced. Most gamers prefer the text based interaction, which make the pronunciations irrelevant. However, there are times when players use a microphone/mic and headphones/phones or a headset (mic and phone combination/combo) to interact with one another. When this happens, gamers generally tend to stick with the word pronunciations that their respective local dialects would normally use. However there are a few pronunciation rules. Acronyms that can be sounded out, such as rotflmao and lol are pronounced as if they were regular words, whereas acronyms such as MMORPG and npc are pronounced by saying each letter separately.
Gamers tend to use the same grammar they would in their native dialects, however there is some non-standard grammar that is considered widely acceptable in wow. The pronoun “their” is often used whether the noun is singular or plural, as in “this hordie pally just logged and left their corspe on the sw bank steps.” Nouns and verbs are somewhat interchangeable, as in the sentences “im twinking out this toon so i can tank” or “grinding is tedious.” Prefixes and suffixes can be added to any word: pwn –> pwned, pwning, pwnage, pwner, pwnz or lol –> lolish, loling, loled, lolage, lolz, wow –> wowverse. Articles can be used as modifiers, as in “i am teh awesome.” Words can be pluralized to emphasize meaning, and for additional emphasis the ending punctuation can be repeated, as in “i am teh hardcorez!!!!”
Sentence structure is somewhat non-standard as well. It is, for example, considered acceptable to structure a sentence as declarative, but then use the ending punctuation to make it interrogative, such as “im gonna tank?” Gamers tend to prefer short sentences because of to the text based interaction. Therefore, sentence fragments are allowed, and often one word sentences are even acceptable. Some examples of this are “for why?” and “tanking?”
For the most part, the words where, were, and we’re have conflated. Conflation also sometimes occurs for the words your and you’re, for the words their, there, and they’re, and for the words well and we’ll. The optional spelling and punctuation is the main reason for this conflation, so it is usually necessary to use context clues to understand the difference in meaning:
“Were [where] are ya grinding next?”
“Well [well], were [we’re] gonna raid Kara tonight!”
“Were [were] ya gonna tank cuz your [your] armor is teh hardcorez?”
“Your [you are] gonna tank, im gonna healz, and their [they are] gonna dps as much as possible.”
“Their [their] dps sucks!”
“Well [we’ll] go their [there] next.”
With all of the interesting words in the lexicon, the non-standard spelling and grammar, and the optional punctuation and capitalization, anyone not familiar with the wow socialect might ignorantly think that players of wow are unintelligent or uneducated. However, after watching closely the interaction between players, one can come to understand the intricacies of this new and exiting socialect. As is already somewhat happening, words and grammar from the gamer and internet world, even from the wowverse will find their way into general usage. Maybe someday people will say, “im gonna hearth now!” when leaving a room in real life! This is just another way that the English language can change and evolve.
Make Believe Games
When you’re a parent (or just a 20-something kid that refuses to grow up) you have lots of opportunities to make believe and to play games. When there are children to keep you company, you have to keep them company too.
You have to make life fun for them, whether it’s a game like “See How Many Dirty Clothes You Can Pick Up Off This Bathroom Floor At One Time (Luna’s record is so many she can’t see over the top!)” or the classic “How Long Can You Sit Still And Be Quiet (Her record being two seconds, I believe)?” or the always fun “Toss As Many Toys As Possible Into The Toy Box Before Mommy Loses Patience Since You Haven’t Been Helping Her Clean Your Room Even Though You Made This Mess And She Cleaned Your Room Just Yesterday But No One Can Tell Because It Looks Like A Hurricane Went Through Here.”
But in addition to the making life fun (or making fun of life) there are the conveniently designed for you fun things like card games and board games. Those can be fun even when the kid isn’t quite to an age of understanding.
We got a giant package in the mail the other day from my sister sent via my Granny which included Luna’s and Freya’s holiday gifts. One of the items in a stocking for Luna was a deck of cards, Harry Potter Uno cards, to be more specific.
I tried to teach Luna the fine rules and regulations of Una. That didn’t work out so well. She kept showing me her cards and she has not quite memorized her colors and numbers yet, so she kept putting the wrong card down and I’d have to correct her.
Because I probably don’t have the patience required to teach a three year old how to properly play a game of Uno, I gave up on that venture, and instead started making up games with made up rules.
We tried a game where you lay Uno cards face up on the table til you cover it with them and then you pick up a random card from the table and try to find its match. You get to keep both cards if you find a match. That kept her attention span for a minute–max!
We tried a game where you each get half the deck and you each play a card and whoever has the highest or best card wins that hand. If it’s a tie you each play one more card. Sort of a Battle/War card game but with Uno cards.
We tried the classic “My Cards!” where I was dealing and we were both supposed to grab as many cards as we could out of the growing pile in the center of the table. Luna was only grabbing one card at a time.
There were a few others made up on the spot, but I cannot remember what all we did.
Playing cards with her brought up an interesting parenting choice. Do I play as I would with any other person and let strategy and skill determine the outcome of a winner, but be respectful of the other player(s)? Do I let my children win either obviously or by being very good at pretending to be very bad at the game?
While Luna is smart–the smartest three year old I know, hands down!–I don’t think that she would have figured out if I’d let her win. But my conscience wouldn’t let me do that.
I had a friend when I was in junior high who could never lose a game without throwing a fit and flipping the board over. She was a couple of years younger than me but was spoiled like you wouldn’t believe! I’m not sure how she came to be like that, given that she lived in the same trailer park/shantytown that I lived in at the time, but there she was prancing around like she was some deity’s gift to the world and being angry if she lost a simple board game. I can’t tell you how many times I had to search the cracks in the porch boards for a missing Scrabble letter, Life car, or Monopoly hotel.
I got to the point where I would let her win. I would let her spell words on scrabble that she made up on the spot just so she could get the most points out of her letters, which annoyed me (me, the girl who joined the Scrabble club and actually owned the Official Scrabble Dictionary!).
Now, I can’t say for certain that the girl’s parents had always let her win, nor can I say for certain that letting a child win will make them act like that girl, but I can say for certain that I don’t want to risk it for my kids’ sakes. I think their self esteem will benefit from legitimate wins and legitimate losses that turn into lessons learned.
If fate or deity or a kid playing an RPG rules life, then that entity was certainly fucking with me today. I got a call from the graduate admissions office of one f the colleges I’d applied for. They said if I got my application materials in today or tomorrow then I could still enroll tomorrow. It is a campus based grad school that I wanted to go to because I like the program (from what I read online) and because it is less expensive and there were fewer hoops to jump through to get in.
So…I got the girls ready and rushed out the door, but the getting the girls ready part took a long time. Then, Luna inadvertently pushed me off the porch. I was holding Freya’s carseat at the time. I didn’t let go of the handle, so she landed fine and it just scared her. I, on the other hand, felt pretty banged up. But I kept pushing onward. I got the girls buckled int othe car and drove, trying to make it to my alma mater before their offices closed so that I could get copies of my shot records, as I have no idea where else I could find such documents.
Unfortunately, by the time I got through traffic to that side of town, it was six and they were closed, so I drove right on past that and went to the Wal-Mart my husband works at so that I could get the rest of this month’s WIC.
When I got home from the store, the girls were both crying and I tried to bring the WIC and the garbage cans in. I tripped over Luna’s Disney Princess folding table and cut into the back of my left knee. I didn’t get dinner cooked for my husband.
Although I had fun playing cards this morning, the day just hasn’t turned out to be fun. But there’s always tomorrow.
Kelly Clarkson–Is it over yet? Can I open my eyes? Is this as hard as it gets? Is this what it feels like to really cry?
ALL CAPS–Bag of cheetos on my left and a rockstar on my right, I’m meeting my guild in Ironforge tonight. My cell phone is ringing and it’s probably my girl. I let it go to voicemail cause I’ve entered the World.