Texting in the Italian Language

Sep 22, 2015

This post is part of ongoing series based on articles in TUTTO ITALIANO, a bi-monthly magazine and audio CD for people who love Italy and the Italian language:

Woman texting

By now everyone has become used to the acronyms and abbreviations used nelle chat, nei messaggini o sms (in chat, short messages or texts).  As in the U.S., it's not only Italian giovani (youth) who use them. “TVTTB nipotina mia!” (Ti voglio tanto tanto bene, or I love you so, so much) writes a nonna proud to join in the linguaggio della nipotina (language of her granddaughter).

The language of  SMS (short message service), or “smsese,” which changes for every idiom, è sgrammaticata per eccellenza (is especially ungrammatical). This doesn’t seem important because texting ha solo due imperativi: rapidità e brevità (speed and brevity).

There are no maiuscole (capital letters), accenti (accents) or punteggiatura (punctuation). The sole exception is il punto esclamativo (the exclamation point), which communicates stupore (astonishment) or contentezza (satisfaction).

Here’s a typical SMS exchange between two friends:

Amico #1:     “6 lib”

                    Sei libero? (Are you free?)

Amico #2:     “…”

                    Tre puntini di sospensione (three little points of suspension?) indicate incertezza    (uncertainty)—in this case: per cosa? (for what?)

Amico #1:     “ci ved alle 8 al cine"

                    Ci vediamo alle 8 al cinema? (Let’s see each other at 8:00 at the cinema?)

Amico #2:     “OK!!! Ganzo!!!”

                    Va bene! Bello! (Okay! Great!)

To keep messages short, il “ch” diventa “k” (“ch” becomes “k”), as in “Ke fai?” (What are you doing?). "Non" shrinks to “nn”; "soprattutto" (everywhere), to “spt”; "comunque" (however), to “cmq.”

Seeming to contradict l’esigenza di rapidità (the need for speed) is the latest trend in digital communication: la ridondanza (the excess) that occurs quando ci si saluta personalmente (when we greet each other personally), just as happens with congedi telefonici (telephone goodbyes).

“Vieni! Vieni! Vieni!” (Come! Come! Come!) you text a friend whom you absolutely want to see—just as you would say “Ciao! Ciao! Ciao!” when you talk on the telephone or greet each other on the street.

Perhaps l’avere fretta (being in a hurry) has in itself become a fashion. Repeating “ciao” three times rapidly signals that you’re in a rush. Instead, si potrebbe agire con calma (if you could take your time), you would seem to have tutto il tempo (all the time) to greet a person—e poi, magari, anche di prendere insieme un bel caffé (and then, perhaps, also to have a nice coffee together).

Common SMS Abbreviations

ki: chi

xro: però

cs: cosa

risp: rispondi

rit: ritardo (late)

qnt: quanto
 (how much)

grz: grazie
 (thank you)

prg: prego
 (please, you're welcome)

ai: hai
 (you have)

o: ho (I have)

a: ha (he/she has)

xke: perché (because, why)

c: ci

lib: libero

occ: occupato

v: vi
  (you plural)

d: di

c: ci

tt: tutto / tutti
 (all, everyone)

m: mi 
 (to me)

and: andare
 (to go)

asp: aspettare  (to wait)

cred: credere (to believe)

dom: domanda/ domandare (question, ask)

Dianne Hales is the author of MONA LISA: A Life Discovered, now in paperback, and LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language. 

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