Current Essays

191 Times 7 or Elect the Elite in 1337 On:2008-01-04 04:09:09

I learned, just the other day, how to roffle my woffle, and before we go any further let me reassure you that that dancing was not involved, I kept all my clothes on, and (to reassure you even further) poles were not involved either (to any great extent)---however the number thirteen-thirty-seven was.

Now you are, almost by definition since you are listening to me, the élite of audiences (probably even to the extent of spelling that word with an accent aigu) and so I’m sure that just as soon as I said thirteen-thirty-seven your minds leapt straightway to the year that the Hundred Years War started, Giotto died, Froissart was born and Petrach visited Rome.

But for once the unimaginable for such as you occurred and you were in error, and will probably remain in error until I set you strait---Oh! O-Oh! All those things I mentioned did actually happen in that year (at least according to the Historians they did---whatever that’s worth) but that’s not what’s on my mind. No my admission that you were---are---an élite was the clue. Not that you’re not! You are certainly an élite because you have been listening to me for, what, absolute MINUTES and you haven’t yet thrown anything at the radio because of my obscurity and if, further, having of course understood me over the years, and thus knowing the sort of opinions that hide under that obscurity, you’ve managed so far to avoid throwing the radio itself at anything (like the nearest, possibly shut, window) you must even be a member of the exclusive and fabled liberal élite.

So having dealt with you lets get back to our number, because in fact that collocation of numbers, one three three seven, shouldn’t be pronounced thirteen-thirty-seven at all, but rather ‘leet’ /li:t/. And since you are such an élite audience, now that we know how to pronounce it, you’re probably still going to get it wrong---I don’t know what’s up with you guys today---so I’d better tell you that the mediæval ‘court-leet’ has nothing to do with it, nor does the early modern and mainly Scottish ‘leet’, meaning a list of persons eligible for some office---though by a strange quirk of convergent evolution that ‘leet’, and what I suppose I should call for clarity ‘my leet’ have a lot more in common that the users of either word wot well of as I’ll tell you in a mo (if I remember).

You see my leet, the one spelled 1337, is a phenomenon that’s a cross between a bit of a cypher, a bit of a shorthand, a bit of computery-gamery-hackery fun and (most decidedly) a big bit of one-upmanship and, finally, has a big dollop of slang on the side.
Leet is of course an aphetic version of (yes you’ve guessed it, I mean I have been rather heavy-handedly kicking around the old hints for the last few minutes) an aphetic version of ‘élite’ (Oh and btw so’s that list of Scottish candidates---both coming from Lat electus via Old Froggish).

Leet , my Leet (not the old Scottish one), started off as a term of approbation between computer gamers and hackers, but has of late extended its range to cover a system---well ‘system’ is a rather strong word for it, but it’ll have to do---a system of writing for the computer cognoscenti; made of visual puns, misspellings, pattern recognition gone wild as a co-ed in Miami in the spring, and the frequent downright intentional missing of keys and hitting the wrong one or hitting the damn things in the wrong order (‘teh’ [T E H] for ‘the’ is a favourite). It seems to have started off in the early days of the internet as a means of disguising the less salubrious aspects of messages: the existence of such terms as: ‘pr0n’ [P R Zero N] for pornography; ‘haxxor’ [H A X X O R] for a hacker; ‘warez’ [W A R E Z] for software (implicitly pirated software that is) tell you all you need to know. Of course there are less reprehensible examples---expressions like ‘L O L’ or ‘lol’ for ‘laughing out loud’ which are almost mainstream now-a-days. Now, with Leet’s delight in play and change, not to mention rhyme and reduplication and its tendency to trope, terms like lol rapidly develop so that one gets [R O F L] or ‘rofl’(for rolling on the floor laughing) and even monstrosities like [R O F L M F A O] which I won’t translate as that one re-enters reprehensible territory again, and (to end as we began) ‘roffle my woffle’.

One final point, just to establish my élite cred. I have to tell you that I’m well beyond leet or even 1337, I am one hundred and ninety one times seven!

Cheerio for now
Richard Howland-Bolton.

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