Internet shorthand, or “lolspeak,” is sometimes credited as one of the more recent landmarks on the road to the end of civilization. But what if we told you that the seeds of our text abbreviations are much older than you think?
Particularly, we’re talking about ‘OMG’ here. The now-ubiquitous text abbreviation is nearly 100 years old, and can be traced back to correspondence between Winston Churchill and British Admiral John Arbuthnot Fisher, reports Newser. All the way back in 1917, Fisher wrote Churchill a missive in which he excitedly exclaims “I hear that a new order of Knighthood is on the tapis — O.M.G. (Oh! My God!) — Shower it on the Admiralty!!” and if that doesn’t sound like the “caterwauling” of “hyper-caffeinated teenagers” (to borrow the parlance of io9), we don’t know what does.
This just adds more credence to the old parental adage, “Hey, I was your age once too, you know.”
Now certainly, it’s hard to imagine ‘OMG’ being a vestige of the common verbiage in the Edwardian Age, but many of our so-called “internet annoyances” are actually older than the Internet itself. Spam can trace its origins to telegraphic dispatches from the London District Telegraph company in the Victorian Age. Boston-area Americans employed “comical abbreviations” akin to the “lolspeak” of our day all the way back in the 1830s. Telegraph messages contained familiar miscommunications like our own iPhone auto-correct frustrations. (More old-timey pre-Internet annoyances here.)
Here’s a copy of the original “text message” from British Admiral John Arbuthnot Fisher to Winston Churchill. Look at Fisher’s face. Hard to imagine a gossip-y Valley Girl accent coming out of that.