Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Social media drives fastest ever evolution of English

Several phone software systems now have built-in emoji keyboards Photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Are you feeling fleek or do you experience a FOMO just reading the word? A study by a professor at University College London has found English is changing at a faster rate now than at any other time in history, leaving older generations baffled by the language their children are using.

Professor John Sutherland at UCL led research into common social media and text speak terms and found the influence of social media and instant messaging was fuelling the speed of change in language.

According to the study, commissioned by technology giant Samsung, there is now a "seismic generational gap" between older and younger generations when it comes to using modern informal language.

Fleek and bae were found to be the most commonly confusing words for parents, with just 10 per cent of the 2,000 surveyed being able to identify the true meaning of bae - a term of affection.

Of the parents who took part in the survey, 86 per cent said they felt teenagers spoke an entirely different language on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Fleek - which means looking good - came top of the list of terms parents did not understand, with 43 per cent selecting it as a term they did not know.

This was ahead of FOMO (fear of missing out) and bae, both of which were selected by 40 per cent of parents.

Popular social media acronyms ICYMI (in case you missed it), TBT (throwback Thursday) and NSFW (not safe for work) also made the list of terms parents failed to understand.

The limitation of characters on old handsets were a key factor in the rise of acronyms in text messaging such as TXT, GR8 and M8. However, technological evolution has meant that these words are now effectively extinct from the text speak language and are seen as 'antique text speak'.

– Professor John Sutherland

He added that the rise of emojis could be the next phase in language and communication, and that the increasing use of icons had an historical link.

He said: "The use of audio and visual messaging has become more commonplace with the soaring popularity of social media and instant messaging apps such as Instagram, Vine and Snapchat. We are moving to a more pictographic form of communication with the increasing popularity of emoticon.

"This harks back to a caveman form of communication where a single picture can convey a full range of messages and emotions. In the future, fewer words and letters will be used in messaging as pictures and icons take over the text speak language."