My mom was asking about l33t this weekend, and it got me thinking about it about abbreviation-based l33t (is that LT?) - everybody's favorite ascii activity.
I think there are two layers of generational immersion. The first is probably my generation, who found it a little faster, and the cultural geekiness around - we also helped pioneer other aspects of l33t, like ascii art in user tags, etc. The second generational immersion layer is generation chipmunk - the kids whittling away at their cell phones, rubbing the numbers off the keys with their thumbs.
Much like touch typing, true multi-tap mastery is something you have to pick up young, or you won't catch up. Now whether the current multi-tap alpha-numeric layout has the same staying power as a qwerty keyboard remains to be seen - which could adversely affect skills (kids can get good at multi-tap, but if it changes, are they screwed)?
The difference is that the first generation helped create and enjoyed l33t (with some backlash - see Mike Patton's "LOL: Loser OnLine"), but the second generation really needs it to communicate at normal speeds on the multitap.
Personally, I find l33t pretty passe. Typing "LOL" is the verbal equivalent of responding to humor with the word "funny", uttered without any inflection - I probably wasn't paying attention. Or course, WTF (what the fuck) and RTFM (read the fucking manual) are a permanent part of my lexicon - the former creating a fascinating hybrid of a curse that loses little of it's punch, while being sanitized for greater broadcasting range. And RTFM also leads to one of the greatest ironic snarkbites ever slapped on a t-shirt: "WWJD? JWRTFM."
I guess we'll see an end to l33t's development at some point - rolling on the floor laughing my ass of (rotflmao) is the exception that proves the rule - how many 8 letter l33t statements can you parse reasonably?
But what if that wasn't a limitation - and what if you could speak and hear l33t as quickly as you could type and read it? You could say all sorts of kick ass things at the fraction of the time...
YWISMT? (You want I should move this?)
AIHRJTS (American Idol has really jumped the shark)
I8CBLN&MAI@D4 (I ate a caliente burrito last night, and my ass is at defcon 4)
WYLTSBMP2E:C? (Would you like to stop by my place to engage in coitus?)
DHHADP (David Hasselhoff has a drinking problem)
FUILDH (Fuck you; I love David Hasselhoff)
LHN2DWIHNH (Love has nothing to do with it; he needs help)
V4Rn:8 (Vote for Ralph Nader in 08)
WYLARAWYDBCW? (Would you like a reach around with your double bacon cheese whopper?)
TWOPTAAGOR (The works of P.T. Anderson are grossly overrated)
WFST2S (What a film snob thing to say)
IAFFGC (I am flavor flav's giant clock)
If you pwn the competition at l33t, r u asciiking?