Pwning English

By Shamus Posted Sunday Jun 15, 2008

Filed under: Random 68 comments

I was on the phone the other day with a friend, who was explaining a bit about how leveling works in WoW. I just didn’t get how “the game begins at level 70”, since that’s when you hit max level.

I was still trying to wrap my head around it when I asked, “So you still keep ‘growing’ in power even after you hit max level?”

He replied, “Oh yeah. If you just ran into Karazhan as soon as you ding 70, you’d get completely pwned. You have to work your way-“

“Hang on a second”, I stopped him, “Did you just say ‘pwned’?”

“Yeah I did.”

“I’m sorry. But you gotta put a quarter in the dork jar.”

This was the first time I’ve heard the word used conversationally, although I’ve seen it written a thousand times.

Language is, of course, changing all the time. Just during my teenage years several words were hijacked by teenagers: Cool, Wicked, Radical, Awesome. All of them were stripped of their original meanings and repurposed as synonyms for “something I like or which I find interesting”.

Pwned is an interesting one. (Doesn’t it look funny to properly capitalize it and punctuate around the word like that?) A few years ago people started using “owned” to mean “defeated”. Probably this arose from something like, “He owns your ass”, giving the idea that not only did the other person win, but they so fully dominated that the loser was helpless. That phrase was shortened to simply “owned” and then morphed into “pwned”, a typo of the same which rose up when 1337speak was all the rage, and which is now mostly used ironically.

I’m only 36, so I don’t quite have enough time as an adult to properly judge, but it seems like language is becoming more volatile due to the internet. Even ignoring the onslaught of new technology-related words, it seems like English is morphing faster than it did when I was younger. Words are coming and going faster and shifting their meanings more abruptly. Maybe I’m just a little less malleable than I used to be, and so the changes seem swifter, I’m not sure. Maybe someone closer to fifty can appraise this and compare things to how they’ve been over the last thirty years.

And now apparently people walk around saying the word pwned in day-to-day speech.

What a bunch of llamas.


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68 thoughts on “Pwning English

  1. Dev Null says:

    Yeah but… how did your friend pronounce it? If I try – which I generally don’t – I come up with “pawned”… which might actually work for the same usage but for entirely different reasons.

  2. Joshua says:

    If you really want the 411 on all that 1337 dope, you should hit that wikipedia.

    The wikipedia entry for leet is great. Seeing leet-speak explained in formal terms is amazingly fun.

    I’ve started using leet in conversation, but I do it in a mocking voice, so as to make fun of the llamas pwning the language.

    I’m not sure I got the thing about llamas, but I figure you were making your own totally unknown slang, so as to jokingly ‘confuse’ readers, and to act like your in on your own sort of language-pwning. If that’s not right, please inform me, but it was damn funny the way I figured it.

    Oh, my. I can see now (assuming I am correct above) people using llama everywhere to describe people like that. Wouldn’t that be llamas describing llamas?


    Edit: I would also like to know the pronunciation. I usually say it like, “poh-nd” or “pwinned” as a joke.

  3. MintSkittle says:

    Unfortunately, my friends and I have used pwned in everyday speech. We pronounce it like owned, but with a p in front.

    Also, I don’t see how a character can continue to grow once the lvl cap is reached. Where can you go once you’ve reached the top?

  4. Teppesh says:

    Well, the whole linguistic drift phenomena that we are currently experiencing is not all that terribly new, though it is certainly more noticeable than it had been. For instance, in old English, the word “silly” meant “blessed by God,” as in, “the silly Virgin Mary.” This association with the Virgin Mary led the word’s meaning to subtly shift to “innocent and child-like.” From there it gradually shifted to “Naive and childish,” and then from there to our contemporary version, “ridiculous, humorous.” Of course, this slow metamorphosis of the word “silly” took hundreds of years, but it was also in a period wherein the English language was relatively stagnant. Compare that to today’s world, wherein anybody with an internet connection can publish words, and it’s easy to see how usage can shift. Furthermore, so much of our type-written communication is now determined more by an unwillingness to spell-check than in years past.

    Re: MintSkittle
    Basically, the whole end-game progression is a whole new series of quests and dungeons, and while you don’t get any new xp or abilities, you do get new, more powerful gear and items. Thus, while you no longer grind for xp, you do grind for gold, faction reputation, and items. Plus, the chains of instances you go through is in many ways more involved than the process to level up from 1-70. Basically, all the levels pre-70 teach you how to use your abilities, and then you really have to start using them once you ding 70.

  5. Gobmech says:

    I’m having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that most things nowadays mean “I want to have sex with dogs and their offspring” or something along those lines. I find it kind of restrictive.

    Perhaps all this slang is a ploy by the government, to reduce the functionality of our communicational (dis)abilities. Behold the coming of Newspeak.

  6. Nick Istre says:

    “pwned” being part of the spoken English dictionary?

    Do not want.

  7. Alex says:

    Surely the pronunciation of “pwned” is approximately “pooned”?

    This is by analogy with the Welsh use of w as a semivowel in such words as “cwm” (pronounced approximately “coom”) – a round valley – or “cwrw” (cooroo) – beer.

  8. Breklor says:

    When you hit 70 you have probably got a decent, functional set of gear. But there are several tiers of superior equipment that can only be accessed at 70, and you have to get at least some of it before you can take on the game’s really serious challenges.

    As for pronunciation, we go with “poned”, to rhyme with “stoned”. I’m sure there’s something to that. :)

  9. Zereth says:

    It’s very simple.

    It’s pronounced “pwned”.

    Hope this helps! :)

  10. Blurr says:

    I pronounce “pwned” “owned”, simply because I don’t like the other pronunciations, but some of my friends disagree with me.

  11. I often hear it pronounced as owned with a ‘p’ in front, but since watching Pure Pwnage I pronounce it as “owned.” The only exception is when I’m trying to be amusing, during which times pwnage is pronounced “pwinahj,” effectively. Imagine a French accent.


  12. General Karthos says:

    Other things that are used in day to day conversation by people of my generation include phrases such as “I are happy”, “I are eating chips and salsa”, “It are [verb/adjective]”, I guess because it’s simpler than conjugating the thing in more ways than one, and because “it are still understandable”. :p

    I generally don’t have a problem with the evolution of the English language. I find it interesting to watch the process at work. Yes, my friend and I use pwned in daily conversation, yes, it’s not entirely sarcastic; it’s pronounced like “owned” with a “p” in front, and it is taken to mean “so utterly and totally dominated as to be humiliating to he who is not the victor.” So we’ve added a word to the English language. So sue us. I even forgive the “I are ________” since I use it from time to time. (Though mostly for emphasis on my actions and in text messages, because “are” is easier to text on T9Word than “am”.)

    I mean, am I justifying myself and my generation here? Sure. Does this kind of grammar have a place in formal conversation and formal writing? No, of course it doesn’t. It’s just new informal words. Like contractions were at the beginning of the last century. Yes, I doubt that in the year 2108 “pwned” will be a word that will be found in formal writing, but the internet isn’t going anywhere (thankfully) and I doubt the language is either.

  13. Zukhramm says:

    My personal favourite pronounciation of pwn is just like that, pwn, no vowels.

    Words like pwn, I have no problems with, things like “u”, “r”, and no difference between “their”, “there” och “they’re”, however, annoy me. Mistakes are OK of course.

    Lack of question marks is also something I really hate.

    Perhaps we should let leet split off into its own language, with its own grammar, orthography and pronounciations.

  14. Patriarch917 says:

    My friends and I regularly speak the terms pwned, leet, noob, lolz, woot, wtf, etc…

    Part of the reason these words have transitioned into verbal use is because of the implementation of voice chat in more games (Ventrillo and Xbox Live). We kept the same jargon, and started speaking it.

    Edit: 30 seconds ago, actual dialoge:

    Me: If you just push play, Battlestar Gallactica should restart where we left off last night.

    My Wife: That would be teh awesome.

  15. Hugo Riley says:

    My friend got hooked to some FPS multiplayer game. He was good but had a problem: he didn’t speak English. After a month or so he learned enough words to participate in game lobby conversations.
    As a consequence, his English is crippled for ever, full of LOL, noob and pwnage. And if you talk with him you’ll probably hear him say LOL as an answer to a joke.

  16. Kevin says:

    (40 here)

    I think as young kids we were more insulated from changing language by parents and schools and others who had no interest in adopting new language. There was simply an additional degree of separation. If it is changing faster, it is only because it is being used more, and language changes with its use “” repurposed to the particular needs and wants of its users.

  17. onosson says:

    I think it’s the influence of mass communication (radio, telephones, then tv, now the net) plus the massive spread of the English language. But English is not the only big language out there: check out what’s going on in China.

  18. Tausney says:

    I think it’s quite fitting that your friend used the word pwned whilst talking about Warcraft, since that’s where the word was first presented to the masses.

    When Warcraft: Orcs & Humans was released back in 1994, the playtesters missed a typo in the text that was displayed for whenever the computer beat the player.

    I can still remember being quite confused at the message “Tausney has been pwned” appearing on screen for the first time on my old P100. I would never have forseen, nor believed how that word would come into common usage.

  19. wintersweet says:

    If you’re curious about this stuff, I recommend the recent edition of Language and the Internet by David Crystal. It’s written by a linguist and takes a good look at these topics in general. I don’t agree with all of his conclusions (or all of his data), but it’s very interesting.

  20. Mechman says:

    The evolution of the language is inevitable. Hell, I use “pwned”, “teh”, and most of the common new obseceneties in regular conversations, since it can be used, much like old english obsceneties, to highlight a point or provide emphasis.

  21. MissusJ says:

    @Teppish, Re: mintskittle: So, getting to level 70 in WOW is like getting your black belt in karate- even more of the same on a new level for different reasons (ie. you aren’t working for belts any more…). Right?

  22. Eldiran says:

    It’s become quite popular to use such words in regular conversation nowadays, and I do use them on occasion, though with purely sarcastic intent. I don’t, however, allow myself to write such words unless, like with speech, I’m being rather sarcastic. I have principles when it comes to writing! Though somehow ‘cya’ has crept into my vocabulary, and it scares me…

  23. TehShrike says:

    Encyclopedia Dramatica: for all your internet meme needs.

    I (and my geekier friends) pronounce it such that it rhymes with “owned” – just with a p in front.

  24. Skelnik says:

    The game does begin at 70. When you first reach (ding) 70, you’ll be wearing greens and a couple blues (uncommon and rare items, respectively). The goal is then to do instances (dungeons) to get all blue gear, at which point you’ll be ready to start Karazhan and some instances on Heroic (rather than Regular) mode.

    After that, you’ll find yourself getting into epic (purple) gear, and ready to take on more of the endgame content and higher level raids.

    There’s also reputation to build with various factions, so that you can gain access to items and crafting patterns form their respective quartermasters, which also leads to better gear and gear/stat enhancements (enchantments, gems, potions).

    Also, level 70 is when you will respec and fine-tune your character to take on its role in endgame content. Every class wants to do maximum damage when levelling in order to get quests done for experience, but when you start raiding, for example, the warriors sacrifice DPS (damage per second) in order to toughen themselves up to be the tank that holds the enemies on them while the healers heal and the melee and ranged do their own DPS. Likewise, the priests tend to cave to peer pressure and become full healers, while the druids and paladins get to choose to heal, tank, or damage.

    As a rogue, when I hit 70, I could take on one or two level 70 mobs (NPC enemies), and use up to half my health during the fight. Now that I’m decked out in T5-level (good) epic gear, I can take those two mobs with barely a dent in my health bar, or I can go all out and pull six of them at once and burn them down fast. I’m fine-tuned for boss damage, so while I will do a lot of damage for the trash mobs before the bosses, it’s when we reach the bosses that I really start to shine.

  25. Meta says:

    One of my friends likes to say “Zomg!” when something isn’t that surprising.

  26. Cybron says:

    I use such words occasionally, but only when talking to fellow gamers. Saying it to a ‘normal’ person would just make you feel like an idiot, I’d think.

    As for language evolving faster, my guess is that if you were to formally put together a research paper on it, you’d find that the rate of linguistic shift parallels the rate of technological development, which is an exponential curve.

  27. onosson says:

    @ Cybron

    I think you might be partially right, except for the fact that languages spoken in cultures with limited and slow-changing technologies also change drastically over time. For example, look at the island of New Guinea, home to 1/5 to 1/4 of all languages on earth! (Though many will likely go extinct in the near future, unfortunately) Presumably they all developed from a smaller number of ancestral languages, and then diverged over time; and it wasn’t technological change driving that divergence.

  28. onosson says:

    @ Cybron (retyping this because the interwebs ate my last comment!!)

    Technology can’t be the whole story, because languages change drastically even where cultures possess limited technologies with a slow rate of change. Look at Papua New Guinea, home to perhaps 1/5 of all languages on earth. Presumably, these developed from a smaller number of earlier ancestral languages, and later diverged. Technology couldn’t have been the catalyst for all that change, though change in technology certainly does push linguistic change along with it.

    Wikipedia has a decent summary of the linguistic situation, at least at the time of posting.

  29. Rebecca says:

    I doubt that the language is changing any faster. If there was an influx of a foreign language, like another Viking invasion or something like that, then English would probably change drastically. Adding words to the vocabulary isn’t such a big deal.

  30. Teppesh says:

    When languages drift apart, it is usually due to barriers between groups of people, whether geographical or cultural (often both). When you have mass communication, the regional differences tend to blur into a shared language. It works this way with regional accents and dialects, as well. For instance, in my parents’ generation, you could always tell the difference between one born in the South and one born in the North or Mid-West, simply be listening to their accent. However, as most entertainment has become primarily national, if you take a random sample of young people between the ages of 18 and 28 from random parts of the country, you would be hard pressed to tell the difference between them, as any differences in accent or word usage would be quite subtle. If the experiment were done forty years ago, the differences would be much more pronounced, as national cable television was less common during that era.

  31. Mike Lemmer says:

    Elaborating on what people have already said about WoW Progression Post-70:

    The difference between Pre-70 & At-70 progression is like the difference between attending school & working at a job.

    You’ve gotten your skills, you (hopefully) know how to use them, now it’s time to earn loot with them. Anyone can reach Level 70 just by grinding monsters, but advancing your gear after you reach Level 70 requires skill, dedication, and good teammates. Whatever you do solo is usually to build up money & craft supplies to finance the group raids or arena matches.

    Hmmm… Raiding Guilds as businesses with all the members as investors…

  32. Visi says:

    I’ve always thought/pronounced it “p-winned”

    That’s how my friend always said it (And she did!) so I got kinda used to it. I now can’t make myself see it any other way!

  33. Mark says:

    Slang has always changed with amazing rapidity. It’s just that now the Internet is a major source of slang.

    I always heard it pronounced “powned.”

  34. TalkingDog says:

    I’ve always heard it pronounced “powned”. Worse than saying L.O.L. or lawl, I think, is my brother and his friends saying “kek”, the unofficial Horde word for “LOL”.

  35. I don’t think ‘leet speak’ is anything to get too worried about. Language is very malleable and every generation has its slang.

    I mean, come on… Have any of you watched some of those silly movies from the 60’s, where everyone was trying to talk like a beatnik Andy Warhol? No one says, “groovy” or “far out” today, unless they’re trying to be ironic.

  36. Lots going on at 70. Crafting seems to be taking the back row to accumulating tokens in the latest iteration of WoW.

    Bottom line is that everyone is grinding out their tokens to trade in for gear prior to the next release. That has drastically reduced the pressure for raiding, evened things up for those who are pretty much solo players, and made PvP servers much, much harder to play on.

    Whether crafting will make a come-back or not in the next expansion is an interesting question, odds are it will.

    Not to mention, everyone wants the faster flying mount. Sigh, that keeps lots of Chinese farmers busy.

  37. Belzi.ET says:

    I just had this discussion with a friend.
    We were talking and searching about those words/phrases we use in our spoken language (our native language is swiss-german).

    We just use a few of them. In fact, we came to the word “RL” for real life and a few times we use the word noob.
    But for the great rest we stay with our language and phrases.
    Actually, I was quite happy that it were this few. Be a nerd or geek is one thing, but this kind of “online-addictive” doesn’t please me…

  38. onosson says:

    If this is any indication, then the correct pronunciation would rhyme with “coned”.


    llama llama duck

  39. Lena says:

    My husband and I use “powned” and “Dubbya Tee Eff”, “Me no want”, “RL” and “I can haz… xyz” in conversation and a few other words to each other just to be funny.

    WoW: Personally, we don’t care about all the epic gear and raiding at 70th. I think saying the game doesn’t start until 70th is focusing on one type of playstyle. We enjoy rolling up new characters, trying new classes, and doing daily quests for money to work towards a faster epic mount. Some people enjoy crafting, or just exploring everywhere.Lots of different play styles out there. The raiding aspect is just one of them. The best part of the game, is there is always something new to try whatever style of play you enjoy.

  40. Terrible says:

    The first and only time I heard it was from Cartman on Southpark in “Make Love Not Warcraft.”

    It was just like “owned” with a p on the front.

    Before that I thought it was like pawned.

  41. Doyle says:

    I lament the death of the English language.

  42. Poet says:

    Languages are an ever changing thing. If you were to be somehow transported to Europe 500 years ago, everyone would probably think you were some kind of idiot because of the way we speak now. And where changes in the past were gradual, owing to slowness in transportation and the fact that most people died within a few miles of where they were born, telecommunications have made lingual evolution possible in extremely short periods of time.
    In 50 years, there will be no English, only l33nglish.
    And it’s wrong, very, very wrong, to tell people that there’s only one correct, proper way to speak. As I’ve said already, languages change, and not accepting that change is self-limiting; a willing stagnation that can easily leave people behind.

    PS: Post 42. Pwn.

  43. GAZZA says:

    Speaking as (very) ex- WOW player (back in my day 60 was the level cap, and I find it amusing that the game begins at 70 – if true, that means I never even started…)

    From levels 1 to 60 (or 70 now, I guess), you can pretty much solo, maybe teaming up with your mates for the odd 5-man instance run. At level 60 (again, I suppose it’s now 70) the game CHANGES – most content at that point is (was?) about raiding instances with much larger groups.

    For me that was the end of the game; I hung around for a little while levelling other characters (“alts”, to appropriately use the net-speak), but it wasn’t really any different, so I got bored and left.

    So whether or not the game begins at 60 (70?) really depends on whether you like the shift from levelling to PvP/raiding. Lots of people do.

  44. Davesnot says:

    Dude.. gnarly stuff.

  45. Aaron Nowack says:


    The situation at 70 is somewhat different than that at 60, as the developers have been much better at adding new non-raid content (and there was more to start with) than they used to be. While the amount of content is of course finite, and raiding is still a big part of Level 70 gameplay, there’s also a lot more solo and small group content available. (And the raid game has shifted from 20/40-man to 10/25-man groups.)

  46. Mari says:

    @Teppesh: You obviously aren’t from Texas. I (and most Texans I know) can tell after two sentences or less which region of Texas a person is from based upon their accent with approximately 90% accuracy. The best I’ve ever seen was when a superintendent shooks hands with the teachers and greeted them in a huge school district in south Texas. One teacher said, “Hello,” and the superintendent stopped and replied, “West Texas, right? Around Lubbock?” He was on the money.

    Back on topic, I will admit to using lolcatz ironically to describe something perceived as cute, but I generally avoid using gamerspeak in conversation. I’ve recently added “teh” to my vocabulary but only sarcastically. “Oh, yeah, that was teh awesome,” followed by an eye roll. I think I might have slipped and said “pr0n” a time or two accidentally, though. I’m ashamed.

  47. qrter says:

    I know people who say “lol” instead of just, you know, laughing out loud. I can’t get my head around that – they say it INSTEAD OF LAUGHING!

    It’s insanity. And it makes you sound like an idiot, I’m afraid.

  48. Chemizt says:

    The game starts at level 1. Then you have loads of fun exploring and levelling and learning new skills and meeting new people.

    Then you hit 70 and the game goes on for a little bit with kara which is terrible fun, but soon you will find out that every day that you advance further, you are being more and more surrounded by idiots and a**holes who are only interested in where the next drop is coming from. This starts in kara already because kara is the place where people get fast and easy drops and become hungry for more, but it gets worse through ZA and the 25-mans right up until sunwell plateau. So you find yourself spending every evening in company which you would rather be without, getting drops for people whom you know don’t deserve them and who fight over them like wolves.

    Then you have the BG/Arena crowd who dress up in gear that they claim is equivalent to raiding gear but is not by far and neither are their PvE skills. But you kick it with them in anyway because they are good at what they do and it’s a change and you can have a laugh or two in BG if nobody is screaming at people in raid chat.

    Aside from that, you might make an effort getting that epic flying mount you always wanted or rerolling a different class but deep inside you know all too well that this game has been over for a while now, it ended just around when you downed the last boss in kara and at the end of the adventure beyond that, there was nothing to find except idiots and users of people.

    Yes and there are many people who actually say “lol” instead of laughing. When you hear it, it makes you wish you could travel back in time and convince that person’s mother to get that abortion she knows she wanted after all.

  49. Alexis says:

    Slang serves many purposes and leetspeak is a fine example of all of them. It’s being studied. The key driver imho is not technological change per se, but the availability and routing of comm channels. Rigid language is a form of redundancy which helps the language survive long journeys or periods of isolation. “Rosy fingered dawn arose above the wine dark sea”.

    The internet, dictionaries and the vast body of modern literature available make this redundancy unnecessary, so language is naturally evolving to a more portable, rich, fluid form.

    I use a lot of spoken leet, but usually for effect. I like the subtleties of emphasis it allows. For example:

    lol: just funny. Generally people say ‘hehe’ now.
    lul: funny because someone’s being stupid or a dick which is what lul means in Dutch.
    kek: Alliance side, this means kk (ok) but also that I think you’re telling me to do something dumb
    lolwut: like wtf but less offensive

    Most people probably don’t get these subtleties, but that’s the point of slang.

    WTF is pronounced wuh-tuh-fuh. Pwned is powned or owned, I honestly couldn’t care less. Anyone who says pee-owned is an outsider.

    I do sometimes find it difficult speaking to work colleagues who still have a tenuous idea of what the tubes are about. Most of the little jokes, references and asides I usually pepper my conversation with I have to omit or expect to be ignored. This probably makes me seem kinda boring, when in fact I’m trying way harder to understand their hobby than they are mine. crai crai. (self-aware emo)

    I met a work colleague who didn’t understand emo the other day. After a pause, we silently agreed this was an unbridgable chasm and we should just move on.

  50. DocTwisted says:

    I’m hip, daddy-O. Like I was jiving to my moll over at the speakeasy last fortnight, seems half this interwebs is in cahoots to take the lengua franca and just render it F.U.B.A.R. for defecation and tittering. Then we got all hyphee, rolled like a baller back to my crib, and hopped on the good foot to do the bad thing with some bonus Spidermanning ‘cuz I likes it like that.


    Languages have always been, and will forever continue to be, organic. Slang moves faster, but some of it sticks to wider populace (“Cool” is now generally known by context to mean appealing, rather than having any relationship to relative temperatures), some of the older terms slide into relative obscurity or are completely repurposed. That’s why my copy of The Norton Shakespeare has copious footnotes explaining why this passage in A Comedy of Errors was funny once, and this other one in Hamlet a horrible fate to befall a loved one’s corpse. Because X generations later, we don’t speak like that anymore. There’s a whole mini-dictionary out there describing all the uses a certain four letter word beginning with “F” can be put to. How many people here having an inkling of what a Minstrel show is now (without having seen either White Christmas or Bamboozled)?

    Not only do the words change, but their pronunciations shift over time as well, something the Grimm Brothers were tracking the progress of in Europe when not collecting the stories parents told their children.

    I would not be surprised if the rise of communication’s ease has caused a more swift spreading of fresh vocabulary… after all, how fresh is the term “rickroll” which we all understand now? But I do think there’s an upper limit to what can be held onto, and some of the terms will slide into obscurity almost as quickly again with very little notice.

    To steal an old chestnut from my favorite author, “Don’t Panic!”

  51. Strigoi says:

    It’s funny how I was just talking to my friend about a similar issue the other day. When I played everquest 1 (about 4 years ago I believe) you would insult someone by calling them a newbie. Then it was shortened to newb and then to noob or n00b. The other day my friend e-mailed me and said “this guy was being a nub” and I had no idea what nub ment. Come to find out in games like Counterstrike nub now means newbie. So in only 4 year or so it went from newbie to newb to noob to nub.

  52. Deoxy says:

    I'm sorry. But you gotta put a quarter in the dork jar.


    That quote is teh awesome.



  53. Martin says:

    “I’m totally pwning my sandwich”

    Mike O, Newburyport. Some time last year.

  54. bkw says:

    Speaking of WoW and lingo and roflmao …

    The creator does some amusing things with the acronyms common to MMORPGs. And it’s set to “Mah Na Mah Na”!

  55. Jennifer says:

    What’s absolutely hilarious is “pwned” is used in a radio commercial. Yes, a radio commercial, with Tom Bodett. Imagine that deadpan voice, “Every other website just got totally pwned. Sounds painful.”

    This is one of the only commercials we turn the volume UP for, and it always makes my husband giggle.

  56. Plasma says:

    I use “pwned” in conversational (that is, spoken) English constantly (and the proper pronunciation is ‘powned’). I also use “doubleyew tee eff”, its variant “doubleyew tee eff, mate”, “oh em gee” and “zomg”, “noob” and “noobtastic”, and occasionally “lol”. And, of course, “meh”, which I no longer even think of as an internetism.

    The other day, my dad used the sentence “I thought Pickles was ell oh ell today”, and I looked at him funny. Not for using it (or for being amused at Pickles, which is in fact one of the very few funny newspaper comics nowadays), but for misusing it (that is, spelling it out, and for using it as an adjective rather than an interjection (the adjectival form is, of course, “lol-worthy”)). So not only have these words become parts of everyday speech as Shamus says, but they have gone so far as to have acquired their own grammatical rules. At least in my mind.

    Of course, I also burst out with exclamations of “brains!” without any provocation (or “penis” or “logarth” or “poongina” or any of a number of other words, to the extent that my friends suspect me of having some mild form of Tourette’s), and will use “brains” as a reply to many queries, and often I will yell at inanimate objects and the intartubes in general to “stop stupiding!”, so I may be either a.) not the best person to ask or b.) a good example of the increasingly amorphous nature of English.

  57. Plasma says:

    It’s interesting to hear people talking about WoW and Guild Wars, where the game “starts” only when you hit the level cap. Because my MMORPG of choice (City of Heroes) effectively ends when you hit the level cap; all the actual content is basically evenly distributed on the levels from one to fifty, and there’s only slightly more to do at fifty than there is at any other level. The devs strongly encourage altitis, because that’s the best way to experience all the content; you wind up leveling too fast even with normal play to be able to play every story arc in each level range, so you have to make more characters to go back and hit the ones you missed. That’s slightly less true since they implemented the time travel system, though.

    But we still get lots of noobs in from WoW and GW and the like who get powerleveled to 50 (thus skipping over almost all of the game) and then complain that there’s nothing to do.

  58. Tom Gunn says:

    I’ll second the youtube video BKW linked to above. I was going to point you to it soon as I was not at work and could actually get to youtube to find it.

  59. Oleyo says:

    heheh, just need to clarify “kek” as used by the horde in WoW. The two factions (Horde v Alliance) in the game cannot speak to each other in chat.

    The method used is to garble the speech so that I will only hear an alliance jerk saying “moshg gleb hard jejs blahblah” or some such when they speak. It happens to be known that “kek” will be “garbled” as “lol” by game to the untrustworthy alliance scum-bag, so that you can give him/her the humiliation that he/she obviously deserves.

    Actually the game will allow you to emote a laugh at the opposing faction, but it is funner/faster to type it sometimes.

    Oh yeah, FOR THE HORDE!

  60. Kacky Snorgle says:

    Alex got it right back in comment #7: In the rare cases when ‘w’ is used as a vowel, it’s pronounced ‘oo’. So “pwn” should rhyme with “moon”, not with “moan”.

    (And “wtf” is pronounced ‘ootf’, which is just close enough to “uff”, as in “uff da!”, to be highly amusing.)

  61. Blackbird71 says:

    I have to laugh at and ridicule anyone who actually says “pwned” out loud, just like I do anyone who uses “woot”… these words were not meant to be spoken.

  62. Pembroke says:

    “It happens to be known that “kek” will be “garbled” as “lol” by game to the untrustworthy alliance scum-bag, so that you can give him/her the humiliation that he/she obviously deserves.”

    That’s backwards; “lol” typed by a Horde player gets translated as “kek” when viewed by an Alliance player (if the Horde player is speaking Orcish). The Alliance (Common) equivalent of this is “bur.”

  63. roxysteve says:

    My daughter and her cousins use this word like they were being paid to do so.

    This dimwitted slang is the thin end of the badger, and no mistake.


  64. Dennis Brennan says:


    “Kek” is an easter-egg. Just as English speakers transcribe the sound of laughter as “Ha ha ha”, Korean speakers (I’m told) transcribe it as the Korean equivalent of “Ke ke ke”. So when Koreans play Starcraft and want to laugh at someone in chat, they type “kekeke”. Blizzard deliberately wrote this into the game.

    Or so I’ve read.

  65. JB says:

    To me people who uses this kind of speak or writing out of context appears less intelligent.

    Using SMS language in regular text makes you look dumb. The same goes for saying things like “owned” in everyday speech. Even worse is “LOL” or “powned”.

    Use it in context, when talking about games etc. But I see absolutely no point in degrading general language just for the sake of degradation itself.

    That’s my personal oppinion. And I am of course aware that people using this kind of language don’t care what conservative people like me think about them.

  66. Krigl says:

    I’m not that old to remember (not mentioning I live in a country where connection to net was reserved to secret police then) but “owned” is supposed to emerge during eighties as an expression for being hacked and rooted, i.e. the cracker effectively owned the server. Later it spread between gamers and the rest is, well, surely not history yet.

  67. ERROR says:

    My sister sometimes says it (Hopefully out of irony), and she pronounces it, “pewned.”

    As for the death of the English language…

    Ugh. That’s all I have to say. Other than, “Now I don’t feel so bad about having to learn another language in high school!”

    I wonder what the English language’s tomb stone would say? On second thought, we probably don’t want to know.

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