John Suler's The Psychology of Cyberspace
This article created May 96; revised Jan 97, Jan 99 (v1.7)

Online Lingo

Language at "The Palace"

Lingo defines a group and makes communication more efficient. These two basic principles are true for all groups - and are especially important in cyberspace where there is a plethora of newly developing groups and technical jargon. The unique lingo that an online group adopts gives the group a unique identity among the hordes of other online groups. Learning the language is a socialization process. Insiders who know the lingo feel like they belong. The group's vocabulary - especially its technical vocabulary - also has a more practical purpose: it makes communication more efficient. If you say "He's flooding the room" you don't have to explain what that means. Everyone knows. Sometimes the terms are written right into the software; sometimes they develop as a result of the community dynamics.

Listed below are explanations of some of the words often used in the multimedia (avatar-driven) communities collectively known as "Palace." The Palace language is a hybrid collection of commonly used internet terms and other words unique to the Palace community. These words were collected specifically from conversations at the "Main" Palace site, the oldest and one of the largest, now maintained by Electric Communities, which develops the Palace software. Some of the terms (mostly those related to the social structure) are unique to that particularly community - different even from other Palace communities. The vocabulary at Main breaks down into some basic categories that are typical of many online groups:

ACTIONS - words designating actions that can be taken towards the environment (like "clean") or towards other users. The actions towards other users are either communication terms (like "whisper") or power terms (like "kill" and "pin"). Often these terms are determined by the software.

LOCATIONS - words indicating places to go within the community. For example, at Main "Harry's" refers to the room "Harry's Bar" while "DT" refers to the "Deep Thoughts" mailing list.

SOCIAL STRUCTURE - words indicating different groups and classes of people within the community. Some of these terms are determined by the software (e.g., "wizards") because having that status entitles you to special software powers. Other terms (like "snert") evolve within the social context of the community.

ACRONYMS - abbreviations that make communication more efficient, like "brb" and the ubiquitous "LOL."

Here are some of the words in the Palace language:

animate - a prop editing feature that creates moving avatars (flying, waving, dancing, etc.

avatar ("av") - the icon or graphic used to represent oneself. Guests are limited to a standard set of avatars, mostly the "smiley" faces. Members can create their own avatars. See prop.

ban - a command used by wizards and gods to prevent misbehaving users from connecting to a Palace site. Bans vary in length from hours to ... eternity.

bot - an avatar/prop that runs entirely on scripts and is not manned by a user. Bots may perform simple chores, like displaying information text when cued by a specific word - or complex tasks, like fetching a wizard from another site when paged.

brb - A widely used internet acronym for Be Right Back, indicating that a user is still connected to the site but is busy doing something else and probably won't respond to anything you say. Similar to "AFK" (away from keyboard), although this acronym is rarely used at the Palace.

client - the Palace software and interface that allows users to connnect to Palace sites.

clean - a script/command that removes all props (not avatars) from a room. The clean command will not work in rooms where scripts are turned off (such as Harry's at Main).

clone - to copy someone's avatar (an ability available only to wizards)

crash (as in "the server crashed") - when the machine running the Palace server software throws a fit and refuses to work.... temporarily. Users get knocked off the server and can't sign back on until the server returns to normal consciousness.

cybersex - an exercise in collaborative dirty talk and pornographic prop display. Skill at one-handed typing is a distinct advantage.

cyborg file - the iptscrae file that contains the routines used to automate aspects of your avatar's behavior online.

DT - the EC sponsored "Deep Thoughts" e-mail list which is devoted to a wide range of social and political discussions.

EC - Electric Communities, the company that now develops and sells the Palace software, as well as runs several Palace sites, including Main and Welcome.

ESPing - to communicate with a person who is in another room at the Palace. What one types to that person cannot be seen by other users. Sometimes referred to as "paging," although true pages can only be seen by wizards.

finger - a command that enables the user to display basic information about another user (assuming that other user has included that information in his or her finger script)

flame - a derogatory message. Considered poor netiquette

flooding - when the user rapidly sends a series of commands to the server, as in changing avs quickly or running multiple scripts. The server may automatically disconnect the user for this excessive activity, called "flooding out."

gag - a wizard's ability to silence a user in that the user's typing will not appear on the screens of other users. The Heimlich manuever does not solve this problem.

ghost - an avatar that remains on your screen even though the user of that avatar is no longer connected to the site. Ghosts will not move or respond to anything around them - they're working on unfinished business from their past lives. Fingering a ghost will produce nothing (unlike fingering a live/manned avatar that is simply motionless).

ghost prop - a translucent prop (not the same as a "ghost")

god - roughly equivalent to "sysop" (system operator).

guest - before the Palace client became free, guests were users who has not yet paid for their software. Guests could not create their own avatars or props and were limited in what they could do and where they could go at Palace sites.

hehe - an expression indicating a giggle: it indicates that the user finds something humorous, but not humorous enough to deserve a LOL, ROFL or LMAO. Also written as "hehehe," "hehehehe," "hehehehehe" (etc.) ... or simply as "heh" for the tired or somewhat unenthusiastic user. Sometimes mispelled as "heheh," or "hheh" or "hehhe" etc.

hosts - longstanding members who assist newcomers and, if necessary, discipline unruly users with "pins" and "gags." Unable to "kill," they are not as powerful as wizards.

IMHO - In My Humble Opinion

iptscrae (also spelled "iptscray") - the programming language for writing scripts. A difficult word to spell.

It - an unfriendly way to refer to a guest (unregistered user).

kill - the ability to disconnect (or "boot off") a user from the server. Only wizards and gods can kill other users. Wizards also can be killed, but not Gods.

lag - the excessive delay sometimes experienced between typing words and the appearance of those words on one's screen. Lag is usually due to excessive activity on the server and/or the networks connecting the user to the server. Complaining about lag is a favorite Palace pastime, although it's a great excuse for not responding to other users

LMAO - acronym for Laughing My Ass Off. Scientific research has not yet proven whether users typing a LMAO are actually emitting any sounds from their mouth.

log - the running text record of whatever conversation you happen to witness during a Palace session

LOL - acronym for Laughing Out Loud, a reaction to something humorous. Not as strong a reaction as ROFL or LMAO.

LTNS - Long Time No See

Magus - the organization of experienced Palatians who served as "helpers." The Magus organized many major Palace events, including the historic "24 Hours on the Palace." Members of the Magus were identified by the "?" in front of their names.

Main - the "Mansion" that is the oldest and one of the most populated Palace site.

member - a user who has registered his/her software. He or she can create their own avatars and props and have access to all rooms at the Palace.

Members - an EC site devoted to registered users (members).

mute - a script whereby a user can silence another person so that a muted person's typing will not appear on the screen of the user doing the muting. A useful defense against a persistent snert.

page - to call for a wizard's assistance

phone - usually posted as a "sign" balloon, indicates that the user is (duh) on the phone.

pin - a wizard's ability to immobilize misbehaving users by pinning them into the right corner of the screen. The victim's av is forced to a generic smiley and "chains" appear around it. As evident by some victims' exclamation, "Oooo, that feels good!", wizards occasionally pin as a playful activity.

prop - similar in meaning to "avatar" and often used interchangeably. However, some users reserve the word "prop" for (a) graphics that are moved about the room (e.g., a glass of beer, flowers, a sign), and/or, (b) graphics that are added to the avatar that represents oneself (e.g., a hat or roller skates added to your Bugs Bunny av).

propgag - a command that forces a user into the default smiley avatar. Used by wizards to control naughty avs.

PUG - the Palace Users Group; unrelated to those so-ugly-they're-cute dogs that snort.

purge - to reduce the size of the file which contains all the props that your client software has seen. The prop file can grow quite large otherwise.

register - downloading the Palace client software and thereby becoming registered with a Palace user identification number.

ROFL - acronym for Rolling On Floor Laughing

satchel - the briefcase where you store your props and avs. Also, a good trumpet player.

server - the actual machine the Palace program is running on and/or the software that interacts with the client software to allow users to do everything they do.

scripts - programs written in iptscrae that allow the user to automate activities such as moving one's prop, displaying graphics, and responding with a text message to other users words or actions. There are standard scripts that come with the Palace program. Users who learn iptscrae can write their own scripts.

site - a virtual "place in cyberspace" located at a specific address. Sites may be located on different servers.

Skaters - a group of users (some say a "gang") that use a skater avatar to designate their membership.

snert - an obnoxious, unruly user. The term originally applied to teenagers who were sexually annoying people ("snot-nosed-eros-ridden-twit"), but the current use of the term applies to any user who abuses others. You'll immediately recognize a snert when you meet one.

spam - a widely used internet term that usually refers to a person's attempts to repeatedly post the same message to an e-mail list or message board. Also, a word for an unpleasant meat-like substance in a can.

Sparkey - the name attached to the smiley faces (an historical tidbit - also the name of the first version of Palace that ran on IRC).

spikeys - the "excited" text balloons

spoof - placing a text balloon over the avatar of another user, thereby putting words into that person's mouth.

TPI - The Palace Incorporated, the company that sold and developed the Palace software after Time-Warner.

EC sites - Palace sites (servers) directly under the control of Electric Communities, including Main, Members and Welcome.

TW - Time-Warner (Incorporated), the original company that owned and developed the Palace software.

warp - using a script to jump to another Palace site.

whispering - to speak privately to another user in the room. What one types to the other user cannot be seen by anyone else in the room, including wizards. Whispered text appears in italics. As if in Some Enchanted Evening, everyone else in the room will fade into shadows.

Welcome - the Welcome Mansion Palace site that is the default setting in the client program. New users usually wind up going here first.

wizard - a user who has been selected for special duties at the Palace. Wizards meet with the "gods" to discuss and make changes in the Palace, and also enforce rules by disciplining unruly users - if necessary, by using their "pin," "gag," and "kill" abilities. Each Palace site has its own collection of wizards. At the Main site, only wizards can place an asterik (*) in front of their name - which is intended as a badge to make them easily identifiable by users who may need their help. Most wizards prefer not to wear the badge!

zap - to direct a laser-like flash with an appropriate sound at somebody; use it too often, and you will be labeled as a kid. Zap is a standard iptscrae script.

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