Beyond the Ancient Roman iPad and telegraph-spread virals, further proof arrives that there is no new thing under the online sun, in the new book To The Letter, by historian Simon Garfield.
The LOLs and WTFs of texting and internet discourse find abbreviation ancestry as far back as Roman days, he observes, where lucky owners of those waxy iPads might have jotted in a message for a friend SVBEEV – si vales bene est ego valeo, or “If you are well, that’s good; I’m fine.”
Even the saucy abbreviations of “sexting” aren’t as unique to our time as you might think, Garfield tells MentalFloss.
Before and during the second world war, soldiers “developed their own cryptic acronyms, many of which were sexually graphic, and scrawled them on the back of love letter envelopes”.
For example, FRANCE apparently meant “Friendship remains and never can end”.
MALAYA was “My ardent lips await your arrival”. And VENICE: “Very excited now I caress everywhere”.
ENGLAND and EGYPT you’ll have to discover for yourself – I’m blushing just typing the words.
The modern category of sexting, meanwhile, is not lingua franca.
The mighty L’Academie Française – or French language police as it’s sometimes known – has ruled that the activity must not go by this horrible English neologism, notes Ben Richmond at Vice Motherboard.
The Academy has previously prohibited “email” in favour of “courriel” and “hashtag” for “mot-dièse”.
Their counterpart in Canada, meanwhile, the Office Québécois de la Langue Française, guard the tongue even more jealously. They won’t allow “podcast”, for example, insisting upon “baladodiffusion”.
And sexting? Next time you’re discussing the subject in Paris, be sure to call it “textopornographie”.