Hacker Language

Language helps re-enforce the barrier between computer hackers and non-hackers, as well as that between hackers and crackers. Computer hackers have developed their own language. Firstly there is vocabulary that non-hackers will not know (TCP, IP, winsock, Linux, root access, vi, etc) due to a lack of computer-related knowledge. Secondly, some computer hackers have modified English with a set of conventions. Hackers replace ‘f’ with ‘ph’ (likely coming from phreaks who were interested in ‘ph’ones), and ‘s’ with ‘z’. Also hackers use numbers in place of letters such as ‘1’ for ‘i’ or ‘l’ (though replacing ‘i’ is not the proper usage), ‘3’ for ‘E,’ ‘4’ for ‘a’, and ‘7’ for ‘t.’ Also it is important to use random caPitAlizaTioN, abbreviation, slang, emphasize words by putting ‘k-‘ before them ("k-rad"), and finish a statement with a series of characters for emphasis.

Take this example from an Internet Relay Chat message in a hacking group (#hack):

<elph> c4n sUm1 h31p m3 w1tH h4x0RiNg mY sk00lz c0mPz?!?!?!!?!?

Which translates to: "<elf> can someone help me with hacking my school’s computers?"

According to "Lamer Speak," elf’s statement comes from the warez and crackerz subcultures. "Warez d00dz" are software pirates who are interested in copying the latest program (warez) or game (gamez). Crackers, in this sense, may refer to people who crack software protection or people who crack computer networks. While one will rarely seen this extreme form of the dialect in serious computer hacking circles (thus distinguishing them from crackers and warez d00dz), some of it is widely adopted (notably using ‘ph’ and ‘z’) and thus helps to distinguish them from non-hackers and nostalgic hackers who would never use this dialect. Perhaps newcomers to hacking use this language because they think it will help them gain acceptance, substituting the proper language for their lack of knowledge, by the gate-keeping elite. Or perhaps it is just seen by young teens as a cool way of talking. In real life, elf was banned (i.e. removed) from #hack very promptly after writing that statement. This exclusion is incredibly common, as newcomers are shot-down repeatedly for requesting help in Phrack, on IRC, and on alt.2600 (a hacking Internet discussion group).

Theoretical Framework
Hacking History
Phone Hacking
What is Hacking?
Juvenile Discourse, Black Hats, and White Hats
Hacker Language
Juvenility and Carding
Problems with the White Hat Hacking Discourse
Nostalgic Discourse
Problems with the Nostalgic Discourse
Law Enforcement and Computer Security Discourse
The Legal Discourse
Problems with the Law Enforcement Discourse
Media Discourse
Hackers as Resistance (illegal and legal)
Limitations to Resistance
Works Cited