A feature supported by Unix, ITS, and some
other OSes that allows two or more logged-in users to set up a
real-time on-line conversation. It combines the immediacy of
talking with all the precision (and verbosity) that written
language entails. It is difficult to communicate inflection,
though conventions have arisen for some of these (see the section
on writing style in the Prependices for details).
Talk mode has a special set of jargon words, used to save typing,
which are not used orally. Some of these are identical to (and
probably derived from) Morse-code jargon used by ham-radio amateurs
since the 1920s.
as far as I know
be seeing you
by the way
are you ready to unlink? (this is the standard way to end a talk-mode
conversation; the other person types BYE to confirm, or else continues
see you later
are you busy? (expects ACK or NAK in return)
are you there? (often used on unexpected links, meaning also
"Sorry if I butted in ..." (linker) or "What's up?"
for what it's worth
for your information
for your amusement
go ahead (used when two people have tried to type simultaneously; this
cedes the right to type to the other)
grumble (expresses disquiet or disagreement)
hello? (an instance of the `-P' convention)
if I recall correctly
just a minute (equivalent to SEC....)
same as JAM
no (see NIL)
over to you
over and out
another form of "over to you" (from x/y as "x over y")
lambda (used in discussing LISPy things)
oh, by the way
on the other hand
R U THERE?
are you there?
wait a second (sometimes written SEC...)
Are you busy? (expects ACK, SYN|ACK, or RST in return; this is modeled
on the TCP/IP handshake sequence)
yes (see the main entry for T)
thanks a million (humorous)
another form of "thanks a million"
with regard to, or with respect to.
the universal interrogative particle; WTF knows what it
what the hell?
When the typing party has finished, he/she types two newlines to
signal that he/she is done; this leaves a blank line between
`speeches' in the conversation, making it easier to reread the
When three or more terminals are linked, it is conventional for
each typist to prepend his/her login name or handle and a
colon (or a hyphen) to each line to indicate who is typing (some
conferencing facilities do this automatically). The login name is
often shortened to a unique prefix (possibly a single letter)
during a very long conversation.
A giggle or chuckle. On a MUD, this usually means `earthquake
Most of the above sub-jargon is used at both Stanford and MIT.
Several of these expressions are also common in email, esp.
FYI, FYA, BTW, BCNU, WTF, and CUL. A few other abbreviations have
been reported from commercial networks, such as GEnie and
CompuServe, where on-line `live' chat including more than two
people is common and usually involves a more `social' context,
notably the following:
grinning, ducking, and running
be back later
be right back
ha ha only joking
ha ha only kidding
ha ha only serious
in my humble opinion (see IMHO)
laughing out loud
Never Heard of Him/Her (often used in initgame)
rolling on the floor
rolling on the floor laughing
away from keyboard
see you later
male or female?
ta-ta for now
talk to you later
oh, I see
Most of these are not used at universities or in the Unix world,
though ROTF and TTFN have gained some currency there and IMHO is
common; conversely, most of the people who know these are
unfamiliar with FOO?, BCNU, HELLOP, NIL, and T.
The MUD community uses a mixture of Usenet/Internet emoticons,
a few of the more natural of the old-style talk-mode abbrevs, and
some of the `social' list above; specifically, MUD respondents
report use of BBL, BRB, LOL, b4, BTW, WTF, TTFN, and WTH. The use
of `rehi' is also common; in fact, mudders are fond of re-
compounds and will frequently `rehug' or `rebonk' (see
bonk/oif) people. The word `re' by itself is taken as
`regreet'. In general, though, MUDders express a preference for
typing things out in full rather than using abbreviations; this may
be due to the relative youth of the MUD cultures, which tend to
include many touch typists and to assume high-speed links. The
following uses specific to MUDs are reported:
see you later (mutant of CU l8tr)
fuck off and die (use of this is generally OTT)
over the top (excessive, uncalled for)
abbrev for "people"
thanks (mutant of TNX; clearly this comes in batches of 1138 (the
are you OK?
Some B1FFisms (notably the variant spelling d00d)
appear to be passing into wider use among some subgroups of
One final note on talk mode style: neophytes, when in talk mode,
often seem to think they must produce letter-perfect prose because
they are typing rather than speaking. This is not the best
approach. It can be very frustrating to wait while your partner
pauses to think of a word, or repeatedly makes the same spelling
error and backs up to fix it. It is usually best just to leave
typographical errors behind and plunge forward, unless severe
confusion may result; in that case it is often fastest just to type
"xxx" and start over from before the mistake.