PWNED by T-Shirt Hell!

First of all, their response is fantastic.
Secondly, I recently learned what the phrase pwned means. Apparently, it’s another word for owned, as in beating someone, or calling someone out.
It originated with gamers. The O key is next to the P key, so the phrase owned, which victors typed at the losers, was frequently written as pwned by mistake. However, the gamers embraced it, and it stuck.
Today, the phrase is quite popular, making appearances on apparel and on TV and other forms of entertainment.
What’s interesting is that this phrase began as written, not as spoken. Because of that, it doesn’t have an official pronunciation. Some people say “poned” while others say “pooned,” “punned” or something else entirely.
With the growth of technology, I wouldn’t be surprised if more words, like pwned, are coined over the Internet.

21 responses to “PWNED by T-Shirt Hell!

  1. I got lost in your eyes, and my body accent of being own and yours accent of being other people’s. I no longer have control on that I make, neither what I say, no longer thinks.
    I sit down a tickling that lowers for my back. Perhaps be your hands; can that it is your language; or, maybe, be the death that comes to look for me. Before, alone I request at a last your kiss, and that the rest of the eternity lasts.
    Alone I want to remember the flavor of your encouragement, the heat of your lips, the sound of our quick pulses.
    Alone I want to keep the last kiss.

  2. Words / phrases coined over – or about – the internet (intertubes, teh interweb…) ?

    O RLY?

    I mean, look at the thing you’re writing – a “blog” – short for web-log. I love the English language and additions of web terminology. However, what is it that makes some terms become standardized (blog) and some remain slang (teh)? I know the practical answer – some journalist used it in writing – but what about certain terms makes them more credible than others?

    Oh, and that email is a disgrace to the English language. Who taught that girl how to write?

  3. The last sentence of the editor’s second paragraph is a run-on. A comma is needed before the coordinating conjunction.

  4. exurgencySpectaculrrr

    Actually there’s an awful lot of hacker lingo that goes back further in time that you might think (pre-internet), and which often involves words that are principally visual in origin.

    These days, a lot of that hacker stuff has blurred with the gamer community, presumably because it’s a larger group of people equally devoted to similar technology (and of course, a lot of hackers are gamers / gamers like to pose as hackers). Words / slang like “pwned,” “teh,” “pr0n,” “w@r3z,” et cetera — in fact, most of the slang on that “I Can Has Cheezburger?” site, which you mentioned a while back, is largely based on hacker / gamer lingo.

    I think another element you see blended in there, and increasingly blended into internet slang at large, is the whole notion of “Engrish” — which was, originally, the amused fascination of anime fans with bad Japanese translation. And not coincidentally in this case, there’s also a lot of overlap between anime and gamer communities. At this point, I think “Engrish” has morphed into a general fondness for any amusingly broken grammer.

    To get back to unpronounceable words, though, I recently heard about a similar phenomenon that I found quite fascinating — taggers, or graffiti artists, often develop tags for themselves that consist of an unpronounceable collection of letters. These choices are based on whether letters are easy to link up when tagging with a spray can, and / or which have some distinctive visual appeal. So a tagger’s handle may be something that can only be represented visually (i.e., nor orally).

    Hah! Now that I think of it, maybe “the artist formerly known as Prince” was ahead of the curve with the funky symbol!

  5. Kate, I would like to know if you have any desire to be persuasive rather than argumentative. Your merciless approach is Machiavellian. Bad grammar is not illegal; vandalizing is. You criticized a drunk friend instead of professionals once. Do you honestly want to be more feared than loved? As a “grammar Nazi,” you only convince other grammarians.

  6. I don’t think many people see grammar as serious, so they don’t fear Kate.

  7. The post above kinda looks like I wrote it, but I did not!

  8. The 11:54am anonymous, I mean. Well, I didn’t write the 11:58, either.

  9. exurgencySpectaculrrr

    Sorry, more blather from me. I have some notions about Kelly Anne’s question, “…what about certain terms makes them more credible than others?”

    This is just riffing off the top of my head, so I could be wandering into the pastures here:

    I think what pushes some neologisms into mainstream dialogue and keeps others at the margins as slang has less to do with the journalistic stamp of approval and more to do with the original intent behind the coinage.

    There are doubtlessly reams of more accurate linguistic scholarship on this topic. But anyway, a neologism like “weblog” is non-exclusive, functional, and is first and foremost intended to convey a concept. If/when that term fills a conceptual void, it becomes readily adopted.

    On the other hand, slang usages like “teh” or “pwned” or “for shizzle” are more about communicating insider-status first, concept second. The slang is exclusive, and is basically meant to be a code or inside-joke that only “the qualified” get. Like a Masonic crest, such lingo identifies one insider to another, even when they do not know each other personally. So by its very nature, such slang resists widespread adoption.

    Inevitably, then, such argot is typically exclusive to a specific sub-culture, which reinforces its own sense of “culture,” in part, by adopting modes of communication that are inscrutable to outsiders.

    As a most basic example, we all see this constantly in the linguistic schisms between young and old generations. All the chat-room / phone-text abbreviations like “LOL,” “BRB,” “WTF?,” et cetera, became popular as ways to communicate that tech-savvy youths could readily understand and yet which their parents could not.

    But youth-culture tinkering with language has been going on, probably, for as long as there has been language. Its pace has simply accelerated and diversified in the modern West, where youths spend vastly greater proportions of time with increasingly niche peer groups (as opposed to with adults, farming, apprenticing, et cetera).

    And I think another phenomenon that you see is that when this sort of slang breaks out into the wider culture (or is broken into, perhaps?), many of the most obtuse elements are softened or abandoned. For instance, the hacker fondness for substituting other keyboard characters for letters – e.g., “t3h” – is softened into “teh” as the slang gains wider adoption.

    Even so, the term is still primarily an exclusivist mode of communication that is more about style than meaning, and hence is unlikely to gain the sort of adoption that a more functional term like “blog” gets.

  10. exurgencySpectaculrrr

    As for posters to this blog who feel misgivings about Kate’s chosen pastimes or this blog itself…if you have a problem with it, why not blog somewhere else? You needn’t work yourself into a sanctimonious fervor over “the evils of vandalizing” – I’d guess you’ve probably ripped a friend’s CD, or copied a movie, or parked in a bus zone a time or two. So let’s save the moralizing for things (and “crimes”) that matter.

    Kate has an interest that resonates with the rest of us, and she had the creative intuition to start this excellent dialogue. For those of us that love language and grammar, it’s just as satisfying a home as game forums are for gamers, or as a dojo is for a martial arts club.

    If you need a sanctimony forum to achieve your full personal satisfaction, then Google will be happy to set you up with a free blog where you can have that conversation with your like-minded compatriots.

  11. I have no problems with grammar gurus discussing their jargon. The issue is audience. I, the 11:54 anon, am asking about whether the Kate’s interests are truly to get people to use correct grammar or to just be the critic. She tends to use the ancient Greek method of arguments, showing the opponent as the fool. If she were to try a Rogerian method of argument, then maybe more people would actually listen to grammarians.

  12. Oh, and I apologize for the “the” in front of “Kate.” I got carried away with my emotions and didn’t revise.

  13. Wow. There’s so much to say.

    Mel, I googled what you wrote, and have determined that what you wrote is original — wow. That’s all I can say about that — wow.

    To my dear roomie Kelly Anne, thanks for the examples — those are some good ones. I find this interesting. I also had no idea that “teh” was so widespread.

    Exurgency, you have provided such great commentary that I’m going to devote a longer entry to this, and spend a lot of time on it. I think that we can make some predictions for future slang based on your observations.

    I also agree with you about the need to focus on crimes that matter. I’ll bet my high-interest CD that everyone here has committed a minor crime at some time, from underage drinking to illegally downloading music to littering.

    Anonymous, I’m just a blogger having a good time. The blog is only a few months old, and I’m experimenting with entries, learning what people like to see. So far, the things people seem to like most are funny pictures, any grammar vandalism and controversial discussions (all right vs. alright, for example).

    People don’t like tidbits from my personal life, no matter how small, so I’m now restricting that to Grammar lessons don’t seem to be very popular, unless they’re about something ridiculous and unusual. Long entries of solid text aren’t popular on any blog.

    My intent is not to teach proper grammar so much as to write about a topic that I enjoy while building a community of like-minded people. It’s great having a place for us to gripe together!

    As always, all readers are welcome here, and nobody is obligated to stay if he or she doesn’t enjoy the blog.

  14. exurgencySpectaculrrr

    Dear “Anonymous” –

    Fair enough. My plea against flaming was perhaps a bit ham-fisted in response to your comment. I’m sensitive to people coming onto blogs just to rant and flame, but you are asking a fair and interesting question, which I minimized – I apologize for that.

    I completely agree with you, too – the Rogerian method is an unquestionably superior form of debate to the straw-man approach – if your intent is to persuade.

    However, I think the more root question is what is the intent of the blog? Maybe I’m going out on a limb, but I’d venture to say that almost no blog is really geared towards genuine persuasion. The medium much more lends itself to sharing common interests, appeals to “the choir” so to speak, and often whipping up sympathetic sentiment among like-minded people. Especially in the latter case, then, the appeal is emotional and not logical. Yet persuasion is a logic-based endeavor.

    Perhaps that’s why blogs so often attract flame-wars, instead of reasonable discussion. Likewise, if there’s any validity in my rumination, then blogs may not be particularly well-suited to persuasion.

    I’m probably being a bit simplistic, though, clearly the “blogosphere” is not so black and white.

    As far as Kate’s enterprise is concerned, I can only speak as an observer (not for her, that is), but it seems to me that the whole concept is rooted in a vigilante notion that is meant to be humorous first – “grammar” is just the venue for the humor.

    Given that, actually trying to persuade people would probably come off a bit like “explaining the joke” and hence wouldn’t be as interesting. For instance, I doubt that NPR would have profiled “The Grammar Evangelist” or “The Grammar Teacher.”

    Also, as grammarians go, I think our club is inherently more snotty and finger-wagging than most – we make a point of being “righter” than everyone else. (And I say this as someone who in part makes a living as an editor!) That’s not to excuse grammarians for being arrogant or rude – but, on the other hand, I also doubt that any grammarian will ever be viewed as eminently persuasive. That stuff simply goes with the territory.

    I actually heard a fantastic (and fairly damning) essay from Jeff Nunberg on this very topic – what motivates someone to be a grammar snob, the nature of the attitude, the sense of an inside joke to snicker at, etc. It was pretty damned funny and accurate-sounding, even as I knew any of us to be part of the group he was pillorying! He specifically called out Lynne Truss, too, which was amusing.

    I’ll see if I can find a URL to the audio feed – anyone who reads this blog would probably have an interest in it. (It probably aired on Fresh Air, since that’s where most of his radio essays appear.)

  15. exurgencySpectaculrrr

    Ah, here it is! Check out this totally awesome riff on grammarians by Geoff Nunberg (misspelled his name in the last entry):

    If you aren’t familiar with Geoffery Nunberg, check him out in NPR’s archives (or one of his numerous books). He is a brilliant linguist and an awesomely incisive / insightful socioligst of linguistic trends.

  16. exurgencySpectaculrrr and Kate,
    Thank you. I merely wanted to understand the purpose of this blog. Some of us are not experts but are grammar-curious.

  17. exurgencySpectaculrrr

    Anonymous – that’s great!

    Glad to hear it. And again, my apologies for being over-bearing – I’ve been talking too much today so please don’t let me scare you off. Kate has a great blog (IMHO).

  18. I wanted to comment on the editor’s note to Jenny S’ email. While I understand that the level of spelling and grammatical errors is absurd to the point of being easy fodder, I found the response to be viscious and unnecessarily mean-spirited. I have seen spelling this bad before: from my eighth grade students in Philadelphia. The editor missed the mark when she called this girl dumb, and when she assumed that these errors were intentional. Jenny S is not dumb, but by definition ignorant of the correct rules of textual expression. She is, however, doing her best to spell phonetically: it’s not a stretch to understand how certain dialects in this country could lead to spelling “get” as “git” and so on. And no, no one taught her how to spell correctly, or else her elementary school classrooms were too unruly or her parents lacked the requisite skills to help at home. When I read her comment, I see a girl who is indeed far behind in her education but who at least had the self-empowerment to speak out when she found something offensive. If the editor would like to poke fun at something, maybe she should look at the state of our public schools and the politicians that let them get so out of hand. And believe me, none of the regulars on this blog have ever seen a school like the one Jenny S went to. I’d like to know what exactly the t-shirt said.

    P.S. Kate: my sister-in-law just showed me your blog and I think it’s wonderful.

  19. I, too, was offended by the tone of the letter and by Kate’s support thereof. I feel that this blog helps audiences who are already readers. How do we help those who aren’t?

  20. The response is great because people who think it’s okay to write like that need to be told what morons they are.

  21. “PAWNED” jack ass!

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